Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Oil Suckers

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When it comes to the subject of drilling for oil off of the South
Carolina coast or any part of the East Coast, you�re being played for
suckers by politicians.  You should be offended by what they and the
media are doing.  If you�ve been led to believe that drilling for oil
is a solution to lower gas prices anytime soon, think again.

It�s just political hocus pocus.  It�s nothing but feel-good media spinning designed to make you feel like the politicians are doing something to help lower gas prices.  They�re not.
Consider the facts:
Years away.  Even if oil companies were allowed to lease offshore areas near here for drilling, it would take several years for the first drop of oil to be sucked from the ground and transformed into gasoline.  
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, �Access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.�
Atlantic leases not really needed.  The plea for more offshore oil leases is insincere because oil companies currently have more than 4,000 leases in the western Gulf of Mexico that they aren�t even using, according to the Center for American Progress.  
Added John Clark, head of the S.C. Energy Office, �They�re not even using two thirds of the leases they now have.�  
Can�t drill our way out of the problem.  Experts say America has about 2 percent of the world�s oil reserves, but uses 25 percent of produced oil.  Regardless of how much is pumped here, we can�t drill our way out of a problem.  Clark says the nation imports two thirds of its oil from foreign sources.  Adding another relatively small amount from new domestic sources (at best 2 percent or 3 percent of the total produced) wouldn�t even start quenching America�s current thirst for oil.
�Drilling offshore here would have a minimal impact on our oil imports and zero impact on our price because oil is a global commodity,� Clark said.
Pollution potential.  David Kyler, executive director of Georgia�s Center for a Sustainable Coast, says while there have been relatively few oil spills at offshore drilling facilities, it is difficult to clean up oil pollution when it happens.
�A human error, accident, equipment failure, natural event or act of terrorism involving an offshore oil well or shipment could produce catastrophic contamination of Georgia�s coastline and wildlife,� he wrote July 3 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  �In coastal Georgia [or South Carolina], such an event could result in the loss of billions of dollars of income by local businesses that are directly dependent on the quality of our environment.�
Short-term thinking.  Because oil is a diminishing resource, it is counterintuitive to continue to think of oil as a long-term energy solution for the country.  Since we know offshore drilling can�t even start to pay off for at least 10 years, it�s not even a short-term solution for $4-per-gallon gas.  
So instead of pumping billions into oil technologies that represent the past, doesn�t it make a lot of more sense to pump the same money into research, development and applications of new renewable energy solutions involving wind power, solar power and more?
It�s being done elsewhere.  There are working wind farms in the sea off Holland.  Germany has tax credits that has encouraged development of fields of solar panels � so-called �solar farms.�  
We�ve got wind.  A U.S. Energy Department study in May showed that wind could provide 20 percent of domestic energy needs by 2030.  We�ve got solar.  It�s being used successfully in California and New Jersey, both of which have serious state tax credits for investment in solar technology.
Investing in renewable energy is the future, not the oily past.  Let�s wake up in South Carolina, smell the (shade grown?) coffee and do something as a state to spur investment in renewable energy. .

Andy Brack, publisher of S.C. Statehouse Report, can be reached at:  brack@statehousereport.com.

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