Saturday, June 21, 2008
Bush's Flawed Oil Plan
Oil drilling rig from Press of Atlantic City (Alex Brandon) June 18, 2008.
From The Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday, June 21, 2008.
Drill. There will be oil.
That was the dominant message from President Bush in an aggressive Rose Garden speech Wednesday on energy policy. But he should know it is wrongheaded to stress supply over demand as the solution to high energy prices. It allows people to pretend oil is the only issue, when a truly wise energy strategy requires a mix of solutions.
The speech's emphasis on looking for more oil was especially disappointing in that Bush only this year seemed to finally come around to the belief that Americans need to consume less energy and to have more energy choices.
Bush has even acknowledged the need to address global climate change through U.S. energy policy. But with gasoline prices having pushed past $4 a gallon, the president now has dusted off his old rhetoric.
Both he and Republican presidential candidate John McCain called on Congress to lift 27-year-old bans on oil drilling in the oceanic continental shelf. Bush also seeks to speed processing of oil shale in Colorado and elsewhere, and to expand and improve U.S. refineries.
In a tale of two coasts, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist likes these ideas while fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California doesn't.
The McCain Bush argument boils down to this: Why should we drill? Because oil is expensive. Put that way, it's a lame argument. Yes, consumers are ticked; oil prices bulk large in the present economic sludge. This is not, however, a survival issue. When voters are cranky, it's easy enough to cry crisis. Bullying rhetoric, seeking to exploit a commercial opportunity, is both inaccurate and misleading.
Drilling on a Bush McCain scale is hardly an "inevitable" measure. Opening up offshore drilling won't affect world oil prices much. The United States produces only 3 percent of the world's oil. Besides, exploration and construction will take three to 10 years at best, and an additional 10 years for full ramp-up, leading to a savings per gallon of . . . pennies.
Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (another Bush McCain mantra) may not bother polar bears much, but it would supply only a little oil for a little while. Energy companies can and should continue exploring for oil where they're allowed; judicious measures encouraging that are in order.
Bush rightly calls for expanded refining capacity and streamlined permit processes. U.S. refining capacity reached a raging 89.3 percent the week of June 9-13, and yet supply lines are stressed. But notice: Expanding refineries and speeding new construction simply make the beast hungrier. It ignores demand, which must be reduced. Such studied ignorance can't hope to address the country's energy woes. Coming decades will bring an increase in energy choices that include wind, geothermal, hydro, alternative fuels, new storage tech, and nuclear - to accompany petro and coal, which won't soon go away.
Barack Obama has consistently supported an energy policy that promoted myriad alternatives. McCain once did, but he needs to be more vocal if he still has that belief.
When Bush spoke on March 5 to the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, he cheered new energy technologies, alternative fuels and energy efficiency. But he's not talking as loud about that now. He should. Because the more you feed the beast, the hungrier it gets.
Posted by Meredith at 1:44 PM