With the November elections just months away and gas prices headed towards $5/gallon, the issue of oil drilling and energy has become white-hot, and Democrats find themselves on the defensive as calls for an end to the oil drilling moratorium mount. Let's look at the Dems' arguments. Do they hold water? Or are they selling snake oil?
Myth #1: Deep Sea Oil Drilling Won't Make Us Energy Independent
"We cannot drill our way to energy independence," House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has famously said. But how do we know this unless we try? We have nothing to lose, really, except high gas prices and the feeling of foolishness that comes from watching terrorists get richer and more powerful and more dangerous thanks to our money.
Another fact of the matter is that if we don't drill for our own oil, other countries will. China clearly thinks deep sea drilling for oil is worth trying, and they're very interested in The Gulf of Mexico.
Myth #2: Offshore oil drilling platforms are an eyesore
The drilling that is being proposed is on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), more than 100 miles offshore – far past the point where they would be discernable to the human eye.
Myth #3: Deep sea oil drilling is an environmental disaster waiting to happen
After Hurricane Katrina, The Coast Guard reported 124 spills totalling over 700,000 gallons of petroleum products. That sounds bad, but it's important to keep it in perspective. Oil seeps naturally from sea beds all over the world constantly. The rate of seepage depends on the location. According to a Minerals Management Service FAQ, undersea seeps in California nearshore and coastal areas release oil into the environment at an estimated rate of 1,000 barrels of oil a week. That's barrels of oil. There are 40 gallons of petroleum products in a barrel. So a little math shows you that it took a Category 5 Hurricane to produce oil spills from over 3,000 man-made rigs equal to 17 and a half weeks of natural oil seepage off the coast of California.
Myth #4: Deep sea oil rigs are sitting ducks for hurricanes
In 2005, the Gulf Coast region was struck by two massive category 5 hurricanes – Katrina, and Rita. When they hit, 3,050 oil drilling platforms lay in their path, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service. An estimated 113 platforms were destroyed, and oil production was interrupted for a short time. But there was no loss of life aboard the rigs; workers were evacuated in time to avoid both storms.
Hurricane Katrina, August 2005
Myth #5: Oil drilling will destroy the pristine natural environment at ANWR
While parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are beautiful, other parts are desolate marsh – this is where the prospecting for oil would happen. If oil is discovered, less than 2000 acres of the over 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain would be affected. That's less than half of one percent of ANWR – a pinprick – that would be affected by production activity.