Public, in Split with Government and Media, Still Supports Offshore Drilling

Public, in Split with Government and Media, Still Supports Offshore Drilling


May 20, 20106:34 PM MST

The US is experiencing one of its worst oil spills in 30 years due to the Deepwater Horizon rig blast in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, over the last several days websites, TV newscasts and newspaper front pages have bombarded Americans with stories and images depicting the devastating human and ecological impact of the accident.



In spite of this grim news, Americans have continued to voice their support for oil drilling off the US coastline. National and statewide polls taken by Rasmussen, MSNBC/Wall St. Journal and the Pew Research Center since the Gulf oil blast reveal that anywhere from 54% to 60% of Americans still favor offshore drilling for oil and gas.




Political leaders and media elites, on the other hand, have used the Deepwater oil debacle as an opportunity to demand that we reduce or stop all US offshore drilling immediately. Within a few days of the Gulf spill, President Obama was backing off from his decision made only weeks before to pursue oil drilling off the Virginia and Florida coasts. He halted any new offshore drilling projects unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent another massive oil leak. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger soon thereafter withdrew his support for a plan to allow new wells to be drilled from an existing platform off the coast of Santa Barbara. A group of Democratic West Coast senators, including Boxer and Feinstein of California and Maria

Cantwell from Washington State, are rushing to introduce a bill that would permanently outlaw oil and natural-gas drilling in the outer Pacific shores.


The media has also piled on. Time magazine ran a sensationalistic cover story entitled “The Big Spill,” more or less predicting the end of drilling in US waters. Business Week’s cover read “Worth It?--The endangered future of offshore drilling.”


The public is delivering a message to our timid leaders: Although the production of energy is a messy, risky, and expensive process, the fact that our very standard of living depends on the continual development of such resources makes such risks necessary. So do not stop drilling for oil!


Unless a new major energy source such as nuclear fusion emerges in the foreseeable future, we will continue to depend on oil, coal, gas, and nuclear to heat our homes and power our industries. According to the Paris-based International Energy Agency, by 2030 fossil fuels will supply 80 percent of our energy need, much as they do today. Oil is the single largest fuel in the primary fuel mix in 2030, even though its share drops from 34 percent now to 30 percent.


What about those “green and clean” energy sources the Obama administration and environmentalists claim could someday replace fossil fuels and nuclear power? The IEA is quite blunt: Wind, biomass, solar, geothermal, energy and other non-hydro energy sources will account for no more than a meager 2 percent of all energy use in 2030.


Americans continue to support offshore drilling because they know that the US needs oil, and is better served developing its own supply as soon as possible than remaining dependent on foreign oil. Currently 60 percent of America’s oil consumption comes from foreign sources at a cost of

$1 billion per day! As energy expert Dr. Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at the University of Oxford put it in a recent New York Times interview, “Americans have concluded that mining their own waters, despite its environmental risks, is more appealing than continuing to depend on producers like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.”


We can only hope that Senators such as Boxer and Feinstein will come to agree with Americans that banning drilling off our own shores will only perpetuate our dependence on foreign oil sources. The federal Minerals Management Service conservatively estimates that the Pacific outer continental shelf represents 10.5 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, a whopping 12 percent of the total believed to be recoverable from the entire U.S. coastline. Instead of calling for drilling bans, the Senators’ should be working with experts to devise ways to make drilling safer. They could demand, for instance, that so-called relief wells capable of stopping an underwater spill be drilled alongside every new well.


Americans’ cultural memory of the economic devastation caused by the OPEC oil boycotts of the 1970s and the more recent oil spikes in 2007 has prompted them to take a more realistic attitude toward energy development. They instinctively grasp that when oil reaches $150 a barrel and gas at the pump surges to $4.00 per gallon, personal and national economic hardships follow.

It is unfortunate that our media elites and government leaders do not yet share the public’s view that a cheap and abundant energy supply is vital to the nation’s future economic growth. Perhaps Americans will explain it to them in November.




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