Friday, July 4, 2008

To drill or not to drill

The debate in Congress to drill or not to drill, as far as I can tell, is a dumb debate. if we opened up all of our coastal areas to drilling, it would take years before any of that oil would be flowing. Even the relatively small areas that can be drilled, aren't.

Here is a BBC report from two years ago regarding the big discovery in the deep gulf of Mexico. This is a technological breakthrough to successfully drill that deep. But even then, without all the heated rhetoric and hyper politicized discussion, the oil execs even say, not much for years. What is interesting as you read about that particular find is that such deep drilling could not be profitable unless oil hit $40 a barrel, at that time is was 72 and now 140.

The fact is that we don't even know how much oil is in the coastal regions of the US. The closer to shore, the easier and more profitable to pump. The NYT ran a good story on this, laying out the arguments on both sides (repub and dem) here. It seems to me that both sides go overboard. Republicans are certainly not "conservative" when it comes to drilling...give the drillers whatever they want, too hell with the costs or holding them accountable for anything. Dems don't account for improvements in technology, and want to rely too much on ignorance...actually both repub and dems want to rely on ignorance for their arguments. When we don't know the extent of oil in these locations, when the 20% of the coasts open for exploration has not been fully explored, this seems to me to be an obvious approach:

1) commit to exploring those areas that are open for exploration;
2) why does the argument have to be over whether to lift the ban completely on offshore drilling or keep it? We need exploration ultimately to tell us if there is any oil there or not....with all the incentives provided to the oil producers under Bush, strike a balance between environmentally sensitive/tourism areas and potential for a rich site. Why not very limited exploration and when we know more about the potential size of what is there, then continue with the debate and when we know where a potential site is, evaluate it for both its upside and downside and then work through that problem specifically.

Instead, we have this dumbass argument of all or nothing.


Anonymous said...

Hey Tom,
Great Post!
Just so that you know, I am a non-traditional student at ISU.
I truly understand your position and do agree with your opinion on “Why All or None”?
My “For what it’s Worth”
I don’t think that we should open up US oil fields for drilling. Not in Alaska, Not along the coastline. I don’t think that we should change anything that would increase our consumption of US natural resources at this time. Let me explain.
Right now the price of gas and fuel is the driving factor behind the publics desire to tap our natural resources. If we buckle and we do tap them now then we have given the public their “quick fix” without regard for future generations. We effectively cut the cycle of “increased efficiency and independence” short and the auto industry along with others who naturally resist change and we, the public keep our SUVs and big trucks and other inefficient gas guzzlers. Look around, we are not being efficient and with the current price we hate it. We would be inefficient users of US oil.
If we were to wait and go thru the full cycle and not open the oil fields then we would see the auto industry become extremely efficient and see incentive and know how for other industries to do the same. I see the introduction of electric cars and hybrids along with alternative fuel vehicles being developed yet they are lacking in public acceptance. Call it their infancy stages as they get better and become more acceptable to the public.
As to “All or None” my belief is that right now they are wanting us to open them up then like ants at a picnic they will eventually consume all four corners and then we will again be a nation that is dependent on foreign oil. A nation that would be constantly at war.
Thanks for letting me post,
David Stout

Tom Steiger said...

Thanks David for the comment. I don't disagree with your analysis at all. And if you and I represented the ends of the political spectrum, then there would be no disagreement, but given the polarized situation we are facing, I think a midl compromise is in order.

I like the image of ants at a picnic. Nice turn of phrase.

Sen John Warner is looking into the possibility of reducing the federal speed limit. A conservative estimate is that doing so could save 2% of gas usage...that is a conservative estimate. As much as I like being able to drive 75, I would not oppose a fall back to 55-60mph. what do you think?

Anonymous said...

“I would not oppose a fall back to 55-60mph. what do you think?”
Hey Tom,
Dropping the speed limit back to 55-60mph makes good sense for many reasons including the energy savings. I did have a hard time adjusting to the lower limit before yet once it was in place and the usual mandatory compliance followed, I settled in.
Public safety wise dropping the speed makes good sense. It would save lives. More plastic components and smaller cars with increased efficiency appear to be inevitable. Our overpopulated infrastructure leaves me leery of the greater speeds. I don’t think that I am a “nervous driver” but driving in packs on the interstate with my “watch out for the other guy” mentality gives rise to question. I trust me, it’s all about them! Now include those tractor- trailer dudes! Having been a UPS driver and having done other “over the road” driving gives me some personal experience with their dispatch techniques. The freight and shipping industry drivers are stressed and pushed to the limit.
The freight and shipping industry will resist dropping the speed limit. With the “Overnight” and “Next Day” delivery that has become a standard expectation of society “Time is Money”.
With the increased cost of fuel public travel will become more localized and time savings from increased speeds will amount to but a few minutes.
Can’t we just take a “Chill Pill” and slow down all aspects of modern life?
Thanks Again,
David Stout
(always feel free to delete any of my comments)

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