Voters upset with gas prices but still leaning towards Obama and the rest of the Don’t Drill Democrats ought to read the New York Times’ article on oil exploration through to the end. After some obligatory nay-saying, the article gets to these key graphs:
Only about 20 percent of the continental shelf is open for drilling, providing about 27 percent of domestic oil production and 14 percent of natural gas production. Republicans say that modern seismic work and drilling in deep waters in the central Gulf of Mexico have meant a sixfold increase in estimates of the oil there, and they believe that would happen again if exploration were expanded.
Representative John E. Peterson, Republican of Pennsylvania, is leading the House forces in favor of offshore drilling. He said opening more areas would cut down on fear and speculation in the oil markets.
Most oil companies support the Republican position and are particularly eager for access to the eastern gulf, noting that the water in some parts of it is shallow and drilling would be easy.
“These areas have potential, and we really need to find out what is out there,” said Stephen J. Hadden, senior vice president for exploration and production at Devon Energy, a major gulf producer. “We’re encouraged the dialogue is now occurring, and people are asking the hard questions as to why this is off limits.”
Supporters of the Republican position put estimates for potential oil production from new areas at 1 million barrels a day or more. That would be a notable improvement in domestic production, of about 5 million barrels a day. The United States consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day, importing most of it.
Here’s the key: If there isn’t any oil, the oil companies won’t drill for what’s not there.
But if there are vast deposits off-shore, bringing it to market buys more time for the transition to alternative fuels, and any discoveries would bring down the price at the pump.
A bipartisan commitment to use the oil at our disposal would send a sharp and clear signal to futures markets, but the Democrats don’t want to do that. The big divide between McCain and the GOP and Obama and the Democrats is that the Democrats have long favored high gas prices as a instrument of no-growth environmentalism.
Obama and the Triple D Democrats could work with the GOP to bring down gas prices. They just don’t want to.