Chill, Baby, Chill: Obama Lifts Ceremonial Ban on Hypothetical Oil Reserves
Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic has a pretty good take on the President’s “stunning turnaround” on offshore drilling.
Just like the fuss about the utterly unspectacular ANWR reserves, the controversy over access to America’s remaining offshore oil fields has everything to do with political optics, and almost zero relevance to “energy self-sufficiency,” which is currently only feasible if the US—the world’s third-largest oil producer—suddenly triples its oil production overnight, discovers a practical pocket-sized fusion technology or starts burning coal at a rate that would make Mars look habitable. Even natural gas—which the US is literally drowning in—doesn’t solve the problem unless we massively invest in new infrastructure and technologies (such as fuel cells for cars) to enable more practical, widespread and economically competitive utilization.
In any event, I agree with Ambinder that Obama has—at virtually no political cost—blunted (if not mooted) the whole Wingnut/Palin “Drill, Baby, Drill!” canard, and effectively called their bluff. Certainly, the Right will be able to attack the plan for being selective in scope and for blocking some planned Alaska drills. But, even if there’s more oil in America’s coastal waters than the relatively paltry amounts that have been estimated in the past, we are many years of costly exploration and qualification away from quantifying—let alone extracting—it. And until the price of a barrel of crude rises above the $90-$100/barrel level again, the sound you hear is unlikely to be the rush of American oil companies anxious to spend billions of dollars to find out what, exactly, is down there.