The Politics of Drilling

It may loom large in this election.

As it now stands, Obama is staunchly in the “we won’t drill” camp.

“Opening our coastlines to offshore drilling would take at least a decade to produce any oil at all, and the effect on gasoline prices would be negligible at best since America only has 3 percent of the world’s oil,” Obama said in a statement that did not explicitly distinguish between oil and gas drilling.

It is the same old tired argument that has been used for not drilling in ANWR. But most people won’t buy it this time because they realize that had we drilled in ANWR 10 years ago, that oil would be now flowing, and helping the situation. Had we pursued such a policy on the OCS, at the same time, we most likely wouldn’t be in the crunch we are now.

And even though it is government that has put the vast majority of drilling off limits for decades, Obama finds a way to blame Bush and big oil for the present energy problem:

And yet, we also know that this problem goes deeper than the Bush administration. We’ve been talking about high gas prices in this country since the gas lines of the 1970s. But nothing has changed – because the big oil and gas companies keep using campaign dollars and corporate lobbyists to block reform. And when the next election rolls around, we’re even more dependent on foreign oil, our planet is in even greater peril, and the price of gas is even higher.

Why would “big oil and the gas companies” block opening areas for exploration and exploitation on the OCS and other areas?

Well of course they wouldn’t – nor would they block new refineries and they certainly have nothing to do with our dearth of nuclear power plants in the last 30 years. So Obama’s arguments don’t address the core issues and are unlikely to be convincing or resonate with the public. They are, instead, simply boilerplate leftist rhetoric with no grounding in reality.

Obama seems not to understand something John McCain quickly figured out – driven by $4 gas, there is a significant shift in public opinion concerning drilling going on right now. And it is unlikely to change before the election.

The issue has also started to fracture the Dems a bit. Jim Webb, Senator from VA and named as a possible running mate with Obama has publicly come out for drilling off the coast of VA. Although he claims his support only pertains to natural gas, drilling is still drilling:

Webb wants his home state to have the right to explore for energy off Virginia’s coast. His staff insists his proposal pertains only to natural gas, and not oil, and that it is completely in line with the state’s other two leading Democrats — Gov. Tim Kaine and former Gov. Mark Warner, who is running for Senate.

A Florida Petroleum Institute representative has said that within FL, there has been a “sea tide of change” in attitude that is now “supportive to great magnitudes”. And, in fact, FL governor Crist is now supportive of the idea.

In fact, according to Rasmussen, most Americans are supportive of it.

At the moment, that is helping John McCain, who has come out in favor of drilling. An editorial in today’s Denver Post shows how that’s playing:

John McCain deserves credit for expanding the nation’s energy debate to include such potent but politically controversial solutions as nuclear power and drilling for oil on the continental shelf.

Some Democrats are seeing this as a building problem for Obama, and are ready to chuck their 30 years of “principled opposition” over the side if it will buy them a few votes.

Jerome Armstrong of My DD is typical:

The politics have changed, and I don’t see the principle that guides Democrats to be unequivocally against offshore drilling for oil at this point. We are stuck on oil for a long time. Congressional Dems should adopt the position, include some safeguards, and alongside billions in funding for finding alternative fuel solutions, make it part of a long-term solution.

Of course that would be an actual energy policy, something which Congress has had the opportunity to pass for decades.

How easy would it be for Obama to slip the unequivocal position of not drilling. Well, if Armstrong’s feedback is any example, not easy. After taking a bunch of flak for the paragraph above, Armstrong fires back:

First of all, I don’t care if you word it differently, the poll numbers in Ohio (71 – 18) are not going to change the outcome that much by changing the wording. Second, we’re talking about leveraging the short-term solution that Bush has offered up as a means to get a long-term solution in place, not about whether drilling for oil offshore is legitimate as a solution. Third, the ideological purity position of there being an environmental/aesthetic argument against it is exactly the position the Republicans want us to adopt.

Armstrong actually gets it. But, apparently many on the left – and my guess is that includes Obama – don’t. That ends up, at least for the moment, being a very big plus for the Republicans.

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