Editorial: Offshore Oil Drilling Fixes Nothing

CBS News. Editorial: Offshore Oil Drilling Fixes Nothing.

CBS News goes through the economic and environmental arguments for drilling protected areas as any sort of a solution to energy woes.

In my view, this proposal which emerged suddenly (meaning it was politically carefully planned) shows that McCain and the Republicans have no idea how to deal with the energy problem, but are willing to appeal to peoples’ tendency for magical or wishful thinking that a problem years in the making has a simple, easy and quick solution.

During the 1970s energy crisis, President Ford announced “Project Independence” which would make the United States 100% free or foreign sources of energy in a decade using coal, drilling for oil and oil shale. Of course it was an utter failure. Now McCain and the Republicans reach back to the failed policy of 36 years ago.

After Ford’s defeat in 1976 a truly useful energy plan passed which emphasized new sources of energy and energy efficiency. It worked. Energy consumption decreased at all levels, but it was all undone at the consumer level when the price of oil collapsed and Ronald Reagan pointedly eliminated funding for research into solar power and similar technologies. Then 25 years of what could have progress was thrown away on the reemerging gas guzzlers and building a residential infrastructure that wasted energy. Probably a trillion dollars has been spent on the wrong thing in terms of energy.

Obama is not guilt free on energy. He and many others supported the disastrous mandate to push corn ethanol. The reasons were probably as much to win the Iowa caucus than any real analysis of the food, and environmental costs of corn ethanol, plus its failure to produce net energy.

The 2008 election will determine whether the champions of new ideas will take office or stagflation and environmental destruction will increase by reelecting the proponents of doing what has always been done, which has led to this.






  1. Jon Way Avatar

    My bet is that Obama’s cabinet would be much, much more likely for change (ie, renewable energy) than McCain’s (and would be more wildlife friendly).

  2. Catbestland Avatar

    I recently heard a a comment by McCain (I can’t remember the exact words) to the effect that he was sure that if we could tap into our own vast oil reserves and not be dependent on foreign countries, even though gas might be $6.00 a gallon, it would be a “source of optimism” for Americans. How would that be a source of optimism???

  3. swjags Avatar

    A country that uses 24% of the world’s oil and has 3% of the world’s oil reserves will never drill itself out of this predicament.

  4. timz Avatar

    I have been hearing about the “energy crisis” since the sixties when I was old enough to understand what it meant. Since then there have been many presidents and many different looks to Congress and neither party has done anything and I don’t expect that to change regardless who is elected. The current fad is to blame the “enviromentalists” because they stopped and are preventing all the drilling and new refineries from being built.

  5. john weis Avatar
    john weis

    This has been a ticking time bomb for many, many years: exponential use of a finite resource, the chain has to yank at some time, and the longer our leaders play their fiddles while GM decides on Hummers instead of hybrids, then the better the chance our society and life styles will end, tits up in the ditch.

  6. timz Avatar

    To quote the now late, great George Carlin, “every election cycle they talk about “choice”, but the choices are as meaningless as “do you want paper or plastic.”

  7. kim kaiser Avatar

    i hate to be the turd in the punch bowl on this, but neither one of them is gonna do squatola,,,,,, until the day comes that mandatory term limits are set on congress,,, corruption, money grabbing, and special interest will be dicktating policy,,,and that is from BOTH SIDES,,,,,,

    obama has already shown his penchant for money and the power it has when he declined the public financing under the guise of he’s worried about 527 deals,,, he likes that money and he likes how it makes him feel,,,,what he has failed to mention is 527s on his behalf have outspent the other side 2-1 so dont think obama is gonna be anytype of godsend,,, HE IS A POLITICIAN,, and that in itself is the problem,,, I sincerely hope no one is really thinking ANYTHING is gonna change with this clown…he doesnt run it,, congress does,,,and they do what they want,, they will be pullin at his coat to get there special interest (and when he declines) they will put there own brand of pressure on him, and he too, will fold,,congress will run him.,, look at that last farm bill that was overflowing with personal interest to keep there own jobs in congress on both sides of the aisle,,,and that wont change!!!!!!!.

    personally, i am reviewing my financial situation,,, and what i need to sell or keep in anticipation of #1) reversal of tax cuts, and #2 increases in taxes on top of the tax cuts if obama gets in there,,,i dont want to give any more to welfare programs, whether to human lazy no counts or ranching or farming interest or whatever the new entitlement programs are going to be than i have to,,,,cause there are going to be many if obama is our new “leader”

    We argue and whine over windfarms, nuclear, solar, gas, where are we gonna put them, public land, private land, are we gonna interfere with bird migrations, gonna let foreigners run them or american run…..everything has downside,,we simply are gonna have to pick 2 or 3 and diversify our sources, implement a plan, and suck it up on some of the enviromental cost,, it just has to happen that way,,,its not a situation we have to like but its one that unfortunately a compromise is gonna have to be made at some level..Most all of the polls are saying 60 some odd percent now favor drilling offshore, because its hitting people in the pocket, conserving isnt helping individuals and when it comes to us getting around or a rig on the horizon,,it seems americans are ready to make a change to get relief,, despite the potential damages, or we can have a huge pandemic diease to remove a couple hundred million people from the energy and food use pool,,and we know no one would let that happen. Even if we go back to chuckwagons, we still gonna have to have grain to feed the horses and wood to build the darn things and the public servants in the name of job creation to shovel there crap out of out roads. Driling may not be the answer,,, but,, oil just happens to run our cars and last i looked, there are no quick conversion vehicles from oil/gas to any other form,, so ,, we better at least get some of what we have from out own resources, as much as i would hate to admit that,,

    You cant polish a turd, and that is exactly what is trying to be done,,,,neither have anything new,,, we are just gonna have to suffer the consequences,,,until a new form of energy is found, quickly implemented and utilized. Until china, and india also join in on this conservation effort in a substantial way,, it will be business same as usual.

  8. Mike Avatar

    Well the fact is that increased drilling would foster greater supply for a greater number of years, as well as bringing down prices. Why do environmentalists take pride in high oil prices and the crushing economic burden it places on the poor throughout America and the world? Do you realize the Chinese are drilling for oil, in conjunction with the Cubans, less than 90 miles south of Florida? Oil reserves off the U.S. coast are not framed by borders. Do you think the Chinese technology and drilling practices will be more environmentally friendly than U.S. companies that are bound by U.S. law and comply with U.S. environmental regulations? What we need is a little pragmatism, balance, and collaboration between all factions- including government and public and private organizations. We can move the country forward, but extremes on both sides are unwarranted.

  9. kim kaiser Avatar

    i just want to be clear, i am not bashing enviormentalism, i dont want to destroy whats out ther any more than anyone else here, but we are gonna have to give some,,and,, we are going to have to use several types of energy sysytems to alleviate the strain. Its not just oil for our cars, its hydrcarbons for our roads, plastics, every day items that we or most many people dont have any idea oil is involved in, All this squabble over unused leases is just not understood by the general public as ot how oil and gass leases in both the private sectior and public sector work, it makes good politics but its not a new concept and has been the practise for many years,,,,these large tracts are leased, seismic activity at a minimum is done, and risk analysis goes from there, it takes sometimes years to put together tracts o of both private and public land to make a deal a sellable investment,,you dont just call washington and teill them you want to drill on a tract, i need a lease,,,,its just way more complicated that tv and the politicians from whatever side want you to believe,,,,,,trust me, I was in oil and gas when it was 10 and 12 dollars a barrel, consumers were happy, but now we are getting fed a big s–t sandwich and everyone is having to take a bite,,,no excess capitol was available to search for new reserves, no money was availabale to drill and find oil, windfall profit taxes did not affect just the major oil companies,, they were a DIRECT REDUCTION OF INCOME from private individuals who invest there money in oil and gas ventures, at one time, independent producers where the major source of oil production in the US<, not exxon, not chevron, the majors went over seas to find oil, but joe and bobs rig service, and a thousand other names noone has heard of, who make there living drilling for oil and gas, and if they are taxed by this foolish notion of WPT,, oil production will decline in this country from day one, it will be taking investment money for new leases both private and public lands, seismic reaserch to develop these leases to and to wisely and hopefully cut the ratio of dry holes to productive wells,,, without research money these things are what suffer, not exxon, not cheveron, ,,,thus, for a period of about 10-12 years from 81 thru about 94, there was no incentive to find oil becuase the cost to lease, cost of surface analysis etc, WPT< environmental concerns (salt water disposal) simply made it not worth drilling for oil,,, many many many 5 and 10 and 15 barrels per day wells were plugged because they were not economical to operate by the paying owners, and in most cases, without extensive cost, reopeniging some of these old fields is useless becasue the formations have been blocked off from there flow patterns……All i can say is there is way way more to oil and the exploration of it than it ever porttrayed in the media or by those opposeing any driling,, in fact, it would bore most to tears, but to sensationalize its downsides is not the way to do it jsut to get a “change” in washington,,

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Of course, more drilling will increase the supply of oil, but at what cost? Oil in scenic and sensitive places includes not just the cost of production but the cost of negative side effects, called “externalities” by economists. They are automatically greater in sensitive areas.

    A lot of people think that any oil discovered domestically adds only to the supply of oil in the United States, but no. The oil market is an international market, so any resulting decrease in price (assuming you can even separate it out of the background noise) is worldwide. That means for American consumers a smaller decrease than if the U.S. could somehow hoard this to itself.

    This was a great controversy over drilling Prudoe Bay in Alaska back in the 1970s. That was truly a gigantic field and Congress insisted that it all go directly to the U.S. They passed a law saying so, but oil leaked out onto the international market anyway in about the same amount as pumped from Prudoe Bay. Eventually the law was repealed because it was meaningless.

    So in a way, it doesn’t really matter much who discovers the oil 90 miles off the coast of the United States.

    The high price of oil does harm those with lower incomes, but high price also stimulates energy conservation and alternatives to gasoline and diesel. After the pain comes the gain.

    Unfortunately the method presently used to do this is probably the worst possible one, but that is no fault of environmentalists, rather the fault of this Administration and previous ones too.

    A much better way would have been a $2/gal tax on gasoline when it was only $2.80 a gallon. The tax revenues would all be given back to the people. This would have stimulated increased efficiency of use and development of alternatives without nearly the pain and the export of perhaps a trillion dollars out of the American economy to the big oil producing areas.

    As an aside, another reason why the price of oil is rising is that the value of the dollar is falling. A weak currency makes almost all imports more expensive. The U.S. is paying the price of many years of living beyond its means.

    America is not been conservative in the oldest sense of the word — prudent, willing to sacrifice now to have more in the future.

  11. JB Avatar


    The gist of your comments seems to be that we need to drill because the cost of oil is so high. I totally disagree. As Ralph mentions, expensive oil can be good because it (1) stimulates alternative fuels development, (2) encourages people to conserve, and (3) in the long run, will get us off the oil ‘teat’ toward energy independence. Moreover, expensive oil may actually encourage people who live in far out suburbs to buy in the cities (closer to their job sites), which could help contain some of the rampant suburbanization that we see here in the Midwest.

    Both of your comments assume that we need more sources of energy (I agree) and that one of these needs to be oil (I disagree). With a move toward solar power we could all be driving plug-in electric vehicles in a little over a decade; the technology is ready (see: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan). Using solar power would mean (1) independence from OPEC and Middle-East oil, (2) a renewable form of energy that does not pollute, a replacement not only for oil but also coal–meaning less drilling, mining, air pollution, water pollution etc, and (3) the best part, it’s all free; we just need to invest in the infrastructure to support it.

  12. Catbestland Avatar

    I watched a special on CNN the other day. The point was made that gas production resulting from oil shale extraction would cost consumers $7 per gallan for gas.

  13. Jon Way Avatar

    Great points JB. Ultimately we should not be looking at oil as a commodity. We should be thinking of it as a dying “breed” as alternative/renewable energy sources come in. But of course that means a non-Exxon/Mobil administration would have to fund these endeavors.. It is criminal that they aren’t investing in this infrastructure. I just read that the Republicans actually blocked a tax break for renewable energy. I thought they were all for take breaks but not renewable???

  14. Roy Avatar

    Good comments Kim.

    This comment of Ralph’s pretty much sums up where he comes from……

    “A much better way would have been a $2/gal tax on gasoline when it was only $2.80 a gallon. The tax revenues would all be given back to the people”

    To Ralph’s credit I’ve seen very few progressives make this point……….

    “As an aside, another reason why the price of oil is rising is that the value of the dollar is falling. A weak currency makes almost all imports more expensive. The U.S. is paying the price of many years of living beyond its means.”


    I think upcoming advancements in solar energy technology will make it a big player in solutions to our energy problems.

  15. john weis Avatar
    john weis

    The major American perspective on the oil situation is that by additional drilling or some legislative action against speculation, that we can go back to the good old days of driving Hummers on $2 gallon gas. The fact is that we cannot go back: the genie is finally out of the bottle and our amazing run of luck with cheap fuel is over. And perhaps just in time given the CO2 effect on the climate. We have to change. But people in this country don’t want to have to do that. It really remind me of the American attitude before world war I. The world was entering the war and we tried to go back to the good old days of letting them have their wars on their side of the pond, and we would have ours. But, of course, that restraint was misguided and we finally entered the contest with will and might.

    This country has to do the same with alternative energy. I am no fan of burning anything, whehter it be coal, ethanol, oil or oil shale. I would much prefer we get Yucca Mountain on line, dump the hot stuff deep in the earth, and get to work expanding the new line of nuclear reactors. Coupling electricity generation from nuc’s along with making solar panels on every house as common place as a doorbell, by expanding wind farms (especially on private land where farmers can both grow crops and wind!), and then converting the vast majority of our cars, trucks and trains into electricity based vehicles, we can regain the high ground. It is not that hard to do, but it takes money to invest, it takes political will, and it takes a leader that can do just that.

  16. Salle Avatar


    Nucs to improve our dilemma… remember when we thought DDT was a good thing?

  17. john weis Avatar
    john weis

    Salle, I agree, it is a problem when we can’t burn anymore. Solar and wind and geothermal can’t begin to replace coal, oil or ethanol (whatever the hell it will ever be) but they can supplement nuc’s. And remember, we still have to tear down the 4 Snake river dams to save the salmon! Nuc’s are, for me, the only saving grace.

  18. Salle Avatar

    Interesting take John, however, I feel it should become more individualized. I think that industrializing our way out of the problem is a nonstarter. We humans do not know better and we should rediscover the individual responsibility for our own lives and existence and go from there.
    I know it’s hard sell but if the hiphoppers, rockandrollers and TVheads would start singing that tune, sheeple will follow…

  19. JB Avatar

    “…sheeple will follow…”

    LOL! I have a new favorite word!

    In all seriousness, I think Salle makes a very good point. At least where we can, we should be trying to generate our own power. This would lead not only to the energy independence of our country, but of individual “sheeple” as well.

  20. Maska Avatar

    Dispersed power generation would also make it much more difficult for anyone wishing us ill to plunge a huge area into blackout conditions by one well placed attack on the grid.

  21. Salle Avatar



  22. kim kaiser Avatar

    You may not use one, but 99.9% of the rest of the country does, our society is car based,, how you gonna get around,, the world isnt gonna stop,,,we HAVE to find fuel to do what we as a society has created. It just doenst stop over night because we dont want to use oil anymore. You just cant stop what has happened and conserve and drop use to any level to stop the rise. Its not just us, China, India, europe, all are dependent as well, and more particularly china an india are growing to even higher levels. china is drilling off of OUR coast !!!!. Do we have a replacement vehicle????? That can pick up the slack of $5.00 gas prices in the next week, month, year,,maybe two years. Have you considered just the Base development cost to do that, then the plant re-tooling to get these things going, oh, and they have to pass safety test so thats about 5 more years of testing. If you do, then what are you waiting for, why havent we seen it.

    Cars and Oil to run them, for the next 10 years are simply a FACT OF LIFE!!!! You dont have to like it. The a-rabs had us over a barrel in the 80s when they kept production way up adn prices at the 10-20 level for years,, so the price would nt go up, and we would nt have a need for alternative energy, now, the world demand has caught up, and they again have us and china and india over the barrel.

    Until that day comes, which, it will and hopefully in the next 10 years at a minimum. what the HELL we gonna do for oil, buy continually from the A-rabs? do you really want to do that, I dont,,Hussein obama says we can conserve, BS!!, we cant conserve that much, I try, beileve me, but life goes on, work must go on, i cant ride a bike cross country to do my work, look at just the commercial use of gas,, to deliver food to the supermarkets, and all day to day requirements of the world society that is based on a car geting somewhere on gas. I hate the thought of addl drilling, but id rather have our own than rely on the A-rabs.
    Hussein says drilling wont help today or tomroow or next week.. well heck,, he hasnt given us a specific proposal yet that i know of that says gas will go down in two weeks.. he jsut says conserve,, and find altehrnatives, well HELLS BELLS, that aint gonna happen tomorrow either!!! I find it very interesting that he doesnt believe ONE DAMN THING that the bush admin states, but he DOES quote and uses in his party line, as he puts it, according to Bushes on energy people,that drilling wont help for ten years!!! now i know thats politicks as usual, but, it seems he disagrees with EVRYTHING bush, but this one thing !! funy how he has picked and chosen. How can u vehemently disagree with everything but this one.

    Somewhere, i guess i read in prior post, that we must utilize many sources that are available, wind, sun, nuclear, and i agree wholeheartedly,but, of course, we still need oil, and ignoring that and not utilizing the resource that we have is foolish. Until, 8-10 years down the road when a suitable, reliable, replacement auto is made whether powered by wind, sun, cowcrap or whatever is made, we have to help support ourselves.

  23. Brian Ertz Avatar

    kim kaiser,

    it will take a decade to develop new oil anyway, on par with the amount that would be needed to have any impact – what with infrastructure, compliance with existing law, etc. by then, demand will likely grow anyway. the problem is not production – it’s consumption – we will never have infinite energy. if the response to markets today involves the myopic view that this is uniquely a production problem – we’ll keep getting beat with this stick over and over – we can never produce our way into energy and economic security – demand will always win unless people learn to use less – whether that mean efficient technology, distribution, or whether it mean that we come to understand that the luxury of the past is over and we have to start setting priorities with use – like most of the rest of the world.

    i agree with salle, decentralizing the production of energy has several net benefits – including community awareness of the costs of a particular production technology. when people are more near the source of production – whether it be wind, nuclear, coal, oil, wave, etc. – and dependent on that production in their back yard – i have faith communities and individuals would make better decisions regarding how energy is generated and how much of it is consumed.

    centralized production of energy wastes energy in transit, alienates consumers from the consequences of use, keeps crooks in control (think enron with the california blackouts) making entire communities beholden economically to the will of too few decision-makers. localized production = localalities maintain their own wealth.

    our problems are not just production – this country wastes more energy than it efficiently consumes. as salle suggests, the organization of production is as relevant as the technology we use to produce.

    America needs this spanking – but as Ralph noted – it’s too darn bad the oil execs will reap the benefit, rather than the public interest – by way of investments which might bring energy security


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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Ralph Maughan