NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 13, 2008

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), sacrificing America's coastal waters to offshore oil drilling will not make a real difference in gas prices.  Although there is some truth to this statement, the claims of offshore drilling opponents are not always factual, says the Washington Post.

In fact, there are three "truths" that deserve to be challenged, continues the Post.

(Truth #1) Drilling is pointless because the United States has only three percent of the world's oil reserves:

  • This refers only to known oil reserves and is based on old data gathered by outdated equipment.
  • In 2006, the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimated that the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) could hold 45 billion barrels worth of oil.

(Truth #2) The oil companies are not using the leases they already have:

  • According to MMS, there were 7,457 active leases as of June 8, 2008; of those, only 1,877 were classified as "producing."
  • However, many leases cannot meet the requirements to be considered "producing" (an estimated 130,000 barrels of oil a day), yet they still do exploratory drills and build the infrastructure necessary to market the oil.

(Truth #3) Drilling is environmentally dangerous:

  • Between 1993 and 2007, there were 651 spills of all sizes at OCS facilities that released 47,800 barrels of oil.
  • With 7.5 billion barrels of oil produced in that time, that equates only to 1 barrel of oil spilled per 156,900 barrels produced.

The NRDC has it right: Our future lies in wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels and nuclear resources; but oil and gas will be instrumental to the U.S. economy for many years to come, adds the Post.

Source: Editorial, "Snake Oil," Washington Post, August 12, 2008.

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