Monday, August 04, 2008

Obama & Offshore Drilling

So now Obama supports offshore drilling, right?

Actually, he doesn’t. He said that, while he is still doubtful that it will have any beneficial effect, he’s willing to extend a sop to the children who are demanding offshore drilling if that will shut them the hell up while he’s doing something useful about lowering gas prices. Okay, he put it a bit more tactfully than that. He’s running for office; I’m not.

What he and I have in common, however, is that we are both adults who know how to use a calculator. We can both figure out that a 2% increase in world supply that occurs in 7-10 years, after demand has increased by 20% or more, is not going to have a very dramatic effect in lowering price.

The offshore drilling crowd reminds me of a cartoon with two vultures sitting on a branch, one of whom is saying to the other, “Patience my ass, I’m going to kill something.” The problem is vultures are not predators; they have no weapons and they don’t know how to kill. The vulture who wants to kill something doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, and is likely to turn himself into carrion.

Offshore drilling might help if it were contributing to a strictly domestic market, but it is not and cannot. Oil is a world commodity with a worldwide demand. The product of our offshore drilling will be placed into a worldwide supply, to which it will contribute less than 2% at today’s consumption.

All of this would be of little consequence if an increase in offshore drilling did not increase pollution due to oil spills. Not the “chance of spills,” actual spills; they happen every year in good weather as well as bad. They are worse in bad weather, of course, remember Katrina and Rita and 750,000 gallons of spilled petroleum? Bad weather is not a requisite for spills, though, as note the Mississippi River just last month and more than 400,000 gallons spilled.

San Francisco Bay saw a 58,000 gallon spill in November of last year when a tanker hit the Bay Bridge, but that is actually a pretty small average year for spills off our coast, and it is rising. The last year currently reported is 1999, and more than 77,000 gallons were spilled that year.

More offshore drilling may reduce gasoline prices, but if it does it will be at some date in the future and only by a slight amount. It will certainly increase the profits for oil companies, and it will certainly increase environmental damage.

I think Obama is doing what he has to do. The fact is the children do live in the house, and they won’t shut up until we give them some toys. I wish he didn’t have to do it, but I think he does.

I’m a tree hugger, and I make no apologies for that. Have you ever seen and smelled an oil slick at sea or an oil-fouled coast? It only takes once. Experience that one time and you will wrap your arms around that tree right beside me.

Don’t worry, I’ll be happy to share my tree with you.


  1. I'm glad you'll share - I'm right there next to you on the tree. A Redwood, by change? Or a Sequoia?

  2. Anonymous6:08 PM

    you'll need help in hugging a redwood or a sequoia, they are pretty big.