Drill baby drill has become a common catcall at political events this election season.
But according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), opening up the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions to oil and gas exploration “would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.” Twenty-two years is a long time to wait for relief at the pump.
Moreover, since oil prices are determined on the international market, “any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant” according to the EIA. In all likelihood, those few pennies in future savings will never be realized since world demand and OPEC have a much greater impact on world oil supplies and prices than any new supply the U.S. could bring into production.
Clearly, approving more leases alone will not solve the United States underlying energy problems. Unless we find ways to use energy more efficiently and develop cleaner alternative sources of energy, opening up our last reserves will gain us nothing except hastening the day we exhaust this limited energy source.
In the House this week, the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899) was brought to the floor. It would allow drilling 100 miles offshore in currently restricted areas and gives states the decision whether to opt-in for drilling between 50 miles and 100 miles off their shores. If enacted, the legislation would open approximately 304.7 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling.
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t thrilled to vote for bill. I did so however, because it was the best deal Democrats could broker and several provisions designed to reduce our dependency on oil were included. Most noteworthy is a provision requiring utility companies to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2020. The measure predates the T. Boone Pickens proposals you may have seen on television but nonetheless is in line with key portions of his proposal.
The bill also provides more than $18 billion in energy tax credits to businesses and homeowners who purchase energy efficient products. This will help spur commercial ventures to produce more energy from solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal sources. The legislation also strengthens energy efficiency codes for buildings and increases federal support for local transit agencies-major incentives benefitting our region.
It is unclear what direction the Senate and White House will go in the energy debate. The House has now passed a comprehensive energy proposal that they may follow or use as a starting point for negotiations. Time is running out on this session. But the American people are better off with an extended energy debate rather than a rush to open up our nation’s last reserves without extracting concessions from the oil and gas industries that can be used to develop cleaner, renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and geothermal. Sources of energy that won’t threaten to run dry-ever.