The New York Sun's Liz Peek: The Argument for Offshore Drilling. (Hat tip: Bill)
Last Friday, the confrontation on this issue turned the House of Representatives into a circus. The Democrats voted to adjourn the session for the August recess, but Republicans refused to depart, continuing to call for a vote on offshore drilling even as the leadership turned off the lights and microphones, plunging the chamber into darkness. C-SPAN, bereft of power, didn't cover the fracas, which went on for several hours. Really, is it any wonder that Congress's approval ratings are so dismal?
Ms. Pelosi's disdain for offshore drilling (and for the American people, it would seem), stems from her view that granting oil companies the opportunity to explore for oil on federal lands is tantamount to a giveaway. She also seems to feel that the effort would, in any event, prove futile.
As to the first concern, it is a puzzle. Who else is going to drill for oil on our offshore lands? Are we to punish the oil industry for reaping huge profits by not allowing them to reinvest in domestic prospects? Is it really better to encourage them to take their cash flow overseas and look for oil in foreign countries than to seek reserves here? Would we rather invite oil companies backed by President Chavez or Prime Minister Putin to drill offshore in America?
Moving on, let us look at the opportunity that exists offshore. The American Petroleum Institute says that because of the leasing ban, the oil industry has not been able to use current technology to estimate reserves on the 85% of the lower 48 outer continental shelves that have been off limits. The U.S. Minerals Management Service estimates that these lands contain 18 billion barrels of oil and 76.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. (Including Alaska, the figure jumps to 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, representing 60% of the oil and 40% of the natural gas yet to be discovered.)
The API reckons the lower 48 figure to be conservative, since over time initial estimates of recoverable reserves have tended to be understated, and to increase as technology improves. For instance, reserves at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska were initially thought to be 7 to 9 billion barrels; by the end of 2005 the region had produced 15 billion barrels.