Bush returns to orginal premise of his presidency — help oil companies

Brian Ertz posted a story several days ago about this topic. This is my take.

In the last week we have had the President’s answer to high energy prices, drill for domestic oil, and develop oil shale deposits.

The primary economic result of this will be to enrich the oil companies even more. They don’t know how to extract oil from shale and produce net energy. It’s like corn ethanol, only worse. It is not a matter of the price of a barrel of oil getting high enough to make oil from this rock containing a petroleum related substance a source of energy.

In addition, environmentally oil shale is probably a worse proposition than Alberta’s devastating oil sands production.

More oil shale leases on public lands will make oil company stocks go up, not stimulate production.

There is, of course, more conventional oil in the ground, but domestic production has been falling since the peak of 1970. More leasing and fewer protective regulations will not alter that fact. It is inevitable.

There is irony, or maybe just propaganda, when they say new “protective techniques” have been developed for drilling and production. It is true that they have. The key point is that when the oil companies and Bush say most of the public lands are “locked up” from development they really mean that they are or will be required to use these protective techniques they so loudly proclaim.

There are few areas with oil potential on public lands where leasing and development are truly “locked up,” to use phrase as it is commonly understood — off limits or prohibited. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge accounts for most of that.

The President continues to ignore the demand side of the equation. There are no White House proposals for more efficient use of existing supplies. He’s leaving $4/gal, probably soon to be $5, to take care of that; and it is beginning to painfully work.

The United States uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day. Seventy per cent is imported. Now other economies are strongly adding to the demand. The high price is predictable with stable international supply and rising demand (of course, oil speculation causes rapid changes on top of the basic situation).

The immediate key to stable diesel and gasoline prices, or a slowing of the increase, will be price induced reduction of the quantity demanded. It will take place without the Administration’s help. It is inevitable. The only logical alternatives are rationing or flat out shortages.

Fortunately there is a chorus against Bush. It does not seem to include John McCain.

Bush’s oil shale call meets with skepticism. Casper Star Tribune.

Power struggle over oil shale. By Anne C. Mulkern. The Denver Post

Don’t Expect Too Much From ANWR. Wall Street Journal. The WSJ says only a 1% decrease in the price of a barrel of oil after 20 years if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is opened up.

Addition June 22. Dan Froomkin writes a lengthy weekly blog for the Washington Post — “White House Watch.” He has a piece out about “Bush’s Oily Embrace.”



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  1. Maska Avatar

    Leaving aside for a moment the awful environmental consequences of all this drilling and burning of fossil fuels, does anybody else find it crazy that so many folks want to suck up every last drop of petroleum from U. S. territory and burn it up as fast as possible to maintain our “lifestyle”?

    This strikes me as just as nuts as if one had a bank account with a fixed amount of money in it, and then chose to spend it as fast as possible in order to buy more stuff to maintain one’s lifestyle, rather than to spend frugally and make the money last as long as possible. The end result is that one would be likely to wind up at war with one’s neighbors in order to take away the last couple of dollars lying around in their piggy banks.

    National security considerations would seem to dictate instituting a crash program of conservation and alternative energy development, and saving the last petroleum in the ground for such time and such uses in which other materials won’t suffice.

    But then, as an old teaching buddy of mine used to say about the local school administration: “They’ll never do that. It’s too much like right!”

  2. Steve C Avatar
    Steve C

    We need a president to come out with a monumental proposal like kennedy’s space program. A hydrogen economy within 10 years or solar panels on every home.

  3. Jon Way Avatar

    I wonder if I will ever despite anything as much as this corrupt, both morally and economically, stupid administration.

  4. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Oh…and one more thing…Exxon, Shell, BP, etc..have been awarded no bid contracts in the oil fields of………..Iraq.

    After 8 years, 4000+ U.S. soldiers have sacrificed their blood for oil (don’t kid yourselves W. supporters) “Mission (truly) Accomplished”

    A goal attained at the expense of American lives, foreigner’s lives, our treasury, land, etc….. the sad and shameful list goes on…………
    – – – –
    Here it is in the NYT. Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back Webmaster.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I saw an editorial cartoon of a gas pump registering high prices like $4.80 $5.00 $5.20 a gallon and a banner over it reading “Mission Truly Accomplished”

  6. JB Avatar

    I’ve posted this here before, but it deserves much more attention than it has received. Last year Scientific American published an article on how we could be fossil fuel independent by 2050 by converting to solar power: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan.

    What’s interesting to me is that I haven’t heard anyone in politics even mention this type of plan.

    Drilling ANWR will only perpetuate the current situation–allowing us a bit more time on the oil teat, and making oil executives even more filthy rich. I agree with Steve C, we need to be thinking of real change where energy policy is concerned; we don’t need more of the status quo. I don’t know that this plan is the right solution, but it is a step in the right direction.

  7. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Maska your assessment reminds me of the way the US looks to me when I come back from a few months out of the country .. everyone is maxed out on their credit cards and seem out of control with their buying of new stuff. I go to the recycle center and see a throwaway economy. . there is a great site someone on this blog brought up before which really explains the mindset.

    I may be one of the few people I know who is sort of glad the price of gas is going up. It has curtailed my personal trips to the back country a bit but on the overall I am starting to see people not buying that new SUV and conserve their driving. I am seeing a few more bike riders and walkers. I see more people growing vegetables in their backyards instead of grass. I live in a small town where these things are noticeable.
    The sad part is for people who are already poor and must commute. They are caught in a spiraling bad spot, however, companies are looking hard at four day work weeks, and part time telecomuting. All these things help. I believe that Americans could change their lifestyles in the next year or two and give the oil companies a real shock. If everyone did one or two things that conserved energy it would make a huge ripple.

  8. Monty Avatar

    The “Blue Whale”in the room that no one mentions are ever-increasing human numbers. The earth is nothing more than a “checkerboard” with a finite number of squares that are available to be consumed. Why is this reality so difficult to grasp?

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    While it is and was politically impossible, a two dollar a gallon tax should have been imposed on gasoline when it was $2.80 a gallon.

    The vast revenues collected could have been recycled back into the the economy, spurring conservation without sending the money out of the country.

    Instead politicians and most Americans were willing to pretend the price of gas would forever stay about where it was, so now they pay what amounts to massive tax to the big oil-producing countries, many of them unfriendly to the United States.

    Pain now for great rewards in future is one of things that makes people successful.

  10. Maska Avatar

    Monty, I agree 100%.

  11. JB Avatar

    What really kills me is that Saudi Princes and oil executives are growing fat on the backs of hard working Americans (and Europeans) when a renewable source of energy is readily available.

  12. Brian Ertz Avatar

    we need to live the idea that our “standard of living” is more fulfilled and more uplifted by our non-consumptive endeavors – conservation of the wild gives us a beacon toward realizing this, an inspiring illustration of an alternative(s) way of relating to the world

  13. Salle Avatar

    Brian, I agree but think it goes far deeper than that.

    We, Americans, have been successfully and continuously through the ultimate social conditioning device ~ TV been convinced that we are somehow specialer than everybody else on the planet and that we CAN have it all at the expense of those whose resources we have commandeered for the sake of lazy Americans. This society is so self absorbed and all about convenience that we lack collective abilities to think independently from corporatocracy and as a society unless pressed hard against the wall. Why? Because we fool ourselves into believing that we are doing everything they way it ought to be done and deny that we cause harm to everyone else on the planet promoting the collective vicitimhood response whenever we don’t get what we want or have to accept that we CAN’T have it all right now. The corporatocracy wants us to just keep consuming so they can make a few billion off us at regualr intervals. Now, with the Bush regime in office for all this time, they not only have managed to keep their greedy hands in our pockets for every hard-earned buck but they also have access to the US Treasury and have pretty much sucked up all that will go into the national treasury for the next couple generations.

    It isn’t that we lack technology, it’s that corporatocracy has forbidden the use of such things and makes sure that their purchased politicans don’t allow such changes to occur.

    I have a, now deceased, relative who years ago invented a device to improve the efficency of all oil uses in combustable devices and the oil coprorations came to him when on his deathbed and bought him out, then shelved for eternity the patent on the devices. That was twenty years ago, they are far more blatant nowadays, just look at our curerent wars…

    We are a colective spoiled rotten brat of the planet and need to get over ourselves and accept that we are not the end-all, be-all of the world and that we have really screwed up… which implies that we have to change our world view, our way of life.

    It really gets me whenever I hear this cry from politicians and corpiorate schills that;

    “…god forbid we should change our ‘way of life’ because some oil producing country is tired of our hegemonic raping of their natural resources while we insist they should want to be like us so we can tell them they can never have what we have because god said, in our books at least, that we are specialler than anyone else and therefore, deserve all we can take from anyone and everyone else.”

    From interviews with regular folks, that is a basic compilation of the dialogue ~ We’re specialler and everybody else owes us whatever we want to take away from them because of it.

  14. Nathan Hobbs Avatar

    From the reports on shale oil that I have read gas prices would need to be 6 or 7 dollars a gallon for a shale operation to even break even in the costs associated with aquiring it. This is not even mentioning horrible eyesore strip mining will leave on the land.

    In 100 years perhaps a traveler will traverse a waste land of straight cuts in what was once mountains of the west and see first hand what our greed for energy has done.

    Its a future I hope we can stop.

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    My argument is that oil shale, will never be a source (rather than an energy sink) regardless of the price of a barrel.

    That’s assuming no huge technological breakthrough.

  16. Salle Avatar

    The shale oil bit is a red herring. It’s a “feel good” tactic to keep the eye and hope of not having to make significant changes firmly in the sights of those who need a change in order to survive. That makes oil still the ultimate “profit” word that seems to be all some need to get an impression that there’s a quick fix and the oil companies have now figured out how to do this.

    The fact is, the law of thermodynamics says that: “you can never get ahead, you can only break even”, the idea of squeezing oil out of shale is such a lie of economic balance that everyone should recognize that you can’t squeeze enough oil out of stone to make a differece unless you squeeze so many stones that there won’t be any left to get a small portion of the amounts claimed by the oil magnates. And the energy required to do this will obviously exceed any gains in product.

    It sounds like a “water into wine” story.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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