The Offshore Drilling Decision

Liberal bloggers are befuddled, enviros are outraged, and the opposition party, as President Obama likely anticipated, is scornful.

Most of the conventional analysis is trying to make sense of the Administration’s decision in the context of the Senate’s tortured energy bill negotiations. And because that doesn’t seem to make sense, people are scratching their heads.

Fortunately, the president laid out his rationale in a speech:

Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.

Given our energy needs. That’s the key here. And it’s what Greens conveniently ignore. Now I happen to think that everything else in that phrase from the speech is mostly window dressing.  There are many regulatory hurdles for companies to overcome before they can start “exploratory” drilling.  And even then, it’s an open question whether it’ll be worth it to them.

So if the Administration’s gambit isn’t intended to influence wavering Republican senators on the climate bill, and won’t increase our domestic supply of crude for at least a decade, what’s really going on?

Perhaps the offshore announcement is intended for a different audience. Foreign Policy raises that intriguing possibility here. If that’s the case, then the Obama team, while saying all the right things about renewable energy, is keeping one cold eye on projected estimates of worldwide energy consumption rates, and the other on one very worrying scenario.

UPDATE: I think Tom Yulsman is on to something here:

Politically, Obama is looking at rapidly rising petroleum prices right around the time of his reelection campaign, if not sooner. Economically, he’s looking at a potential crunch just when things are supposed to be getting better. And while opening these new regions to drilling isn’t going to solve the problem (because even if large amounts of oil are lurking there the supply won’t come on line for about a decade), at least he’s now given himself political cover.

2 Responses to “The Offshore Drilling Decision”

  1. Tom Yulsman says:

    It’s all about political cover for when the s . . . t hits the fan over skyrocketing oil prices during Obama’s re-election campaign. Read about it  <a href=”″>at CEJournal.</a>

  2. oso loco says:

    Don’t disagree with Tom, but one of the “sacred cows” on this subject is that it’ll take a decade for new oil/gas to start flowing.  And that’s not necessarily true.  Questions –

    1. How long did it take to start the flow from the North Slope? 
    2. How much of that time was “learning curve”?
    3. Why would anyone think that all the knowledge from that “learning curve” has been forgotten?

    “A decade” is a convenient time frame for those who don’t want the flow to start at all – it’s supposed to imply that it’s not worth the effort to start the exploration/drilling/transport solutions.  And it conveniently overlooks the fact that even if it does take a decade to develop, it’ll provide energy that won’t be there at all if we don’t start now (or if we wait for a decade to start).  As an engineer, I find that laughable. 

    Yeah – I’m not on the AT.  Hiked 90 miles and bailed.  Didn’t need the snow/ice/just plain bad weather so we came to Florida to find Spring – and a section of the Florida Trail.  Much better.  So – now what?  PCT? CDT? I’ll let you know after it happens. 

    BTW – Spring is two weeks late in Florida, too.  What Global Warming?  🙂

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