Argument: A comprehensive US energy plan must include offshore drilling

Issue Report: US offshore oil drilling


Obama said during a press conference announcing the plan: “I want to emphasize that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and the long term. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake.”[1]

Robbie Diamond, president and founder of Securing America’s Future Energy, a nonpartisan group committed to reducing the nation’s dependence on oil, said, “Clearly, drilling is not the solution to our oil dependence, but any serious energy proposal has to be comprehensive and include more oil supply and production off the outer continental shelf.”[2]

“Our view on energy dependence.” USA Today Editorial. April 2, 2010: “In 2008, candidate Barack Obama dismissed offshore drilling for oil and gas as a bad idea that would “only worsen our addiction to oil and put off needed investments in clean, renewable energy.” That was the summer of $4 gas, though, when Americans were frantic to do something, and Obama eventually gave grudging support to a bipartisan plan that included drilling.

On Wednesday he shifted even more dramatically, proposing a robust plan to open up long-closed stretches of ocean off the East Coast and northern Alaska for drilling. Maybe it was just practical politics do something for the drill-baby-drill crowd and it’ll be easier to get support for broader climate-change legislation that includes proposals Democrats and environmentalists like.

But it’s also true that when you’re in charge of making the country work, it becomes clear pretty quickly that it’s foolish to put any reasonable energy source, or energy savings, off limits. That’s certainly the way Obama has been acting lately.

During the campaign he was cool toward nuclear energy, but in February he announced billions in loan guarantees for the first nuclear plants to be built in 30 years. His stimulus bill contained billions for alternative energy projects, and on Thursday, his administration announced it was setting aggressive new targets for automotive fuel economy a goal of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, up sharply from 27.5 mpg now.

Good, good and good. There are critics of every one of these plans, but the nation doesn’t have the luxury of instantly wishing away its dependence on oil, or forgoing the big, nuclear-powered plants that will provide electricity if all-electric cars or plug-in hybrids one day fill the nation’s highways. We should move just as aggressively to make alternative energy such as wind and solar more than the 4% of our energy mix it is now. Conservation holds even more potential. We need to do everything.

That’s especially true of drilling offshore for oil and gas. The math alone makes a compelling case. U.S. oil production peaked in late 1970 and has fallen 45% since then. U.S. consumption has fallen, too, but not nearly as much. To fill the gap, we now get almost 60% of our crude oil from a volatile world market, vs. 13% in 1970.”