NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 18, 2010

The amount of energy America's economy consumes is rising, and oil is a significant portion of its generation.  But the domestic production of American oil is falling, and that means that imports must increase each year, which is why increasing the amount of our offshore drilling is a critical component of our energy future, says Pete du Pont, chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis and former governor of Delaware. 

We need to increase the quantity of America's oil production so that we can energize our growing country and reduce the importation of foreign oil.  Our nation's total energy requirements -- oil, coal, natural gas, electricity -- are increasing, says du Pont: 

  • From 1980 to 2008, America's annual energy usage increased from 78 quadrillion to 99 quadrillion British thermal units.
  • It is estimated to increase to 111 quadrillion BTUs by 2030.  

Yet while energy needs are increasing, annual domestic oil production is declining, notes du Pont: 

  • From 3.1 billion barrels in 1980 to 1.8 billion in 2008.
  • To make up for these decreases, we have dramatically increased imports, from 483 million barrels in 1970 to 1.9 billion in 1980 and 3.6 billion in 2008.
  • Back in 1970, U.S. oil production accounted for 88 percent of our consumption, while today it is only 34 percent.
  • Imports now account for just under two-thirds of the oil we use; more than one-quarter of our foreign oil comes from two potentially unstable countries: Saudi Arabia (15 percent) and Venezuela (11 percent). 

So there is no question that America needs to drill for more oil, both onshore and offshore, says du Pont.  However,  Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) is introducing legislation that would halt currently planned offshore drilling expansion on America's Outer Continental Shelf, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) wants to ban it off of California's coast.  The White House is thinking about that sort of policy change too. 

Shutting down offshore oil drilling would seriously hurt our economy, and not just from the lost jobs directly and indirectly attached to offshore exploration and production.  Oil is the lifeblood of our economy.  Limiting or reducing a significant portion of our homegrown oil supply would be both an economic setback and a national security risk, says du Pont. 

Source: Pete du Pont, "Americans Know the Drill," Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2010. 

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