When writing about any energy policy, there are certain facts which need to be put on the table:
- the amount of oil in the world is finite
- most of the currently known reserves are in places unfriendly to the US: the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela
- demand for oil from emerging markets (India and China) will continue to grow
With those facts as a backdrop, the Republicans have decided on an energy policy that is summarized in their convention chant: “drill, baby, drill.” They have embraced drilling off both the west and east coasts of the US as their solution. But that’s not an energy policy: it’s a band-aid trying to cover a gaping wound.
Not that drilling is bad. But drilling isn’t enough. It’s nowhere near enough. The Department of Energy’s own study states that drilling in the areas the Republicans want to open would generate 200,000 barrels of oil per day (1% of US daily consumption), but not until 2017. Other than in the Gulf of Mexico, where we already drill, there just isn’t that much oil off the US coastline.
Which means that the Republicans can place drilling platforms all over the California coast – it will have virtually zero impact on gas prices. Nor will it reduce our dependence on enemy states for our oil. “This is a troubling trend” understates Bruce Bullock, director of SMU’s energy institute.
After drilling – way after drilling – the Republican policy looks at nuclear and coal power. Nuclear power produces zero greenhouse gases, and the newer reactors are supposed to be much safer, although there is that pesky toxic waste. Coal is a dirty fuel, both in the mining and the burning, and the new clean burning technology is far from ready. But the main problem with nuclear and coal is that you can’t put them in your car.
Right now gas is still at around $4.00 per gallon and that price is at the mercy of oil sheiks, Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin. Do we really want to let those guys control our driving habits? I don’t. But nothing in the Republican plan helps free us from our oil dependence. Automobile fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, conservation – none of this is mentioned. Nothing but drilling, which won’t really help. So whose interests does the Republican plan represent?