July 21, 2008
Republicans Could Tap a Gusher of Support Off the California CoastBy Ed Lasky
California's politicians have long opposed efforts to tap that state's (and other states') vast offshore oil reserves. Nancy Pelosi controls the legislative calendar from her perch as Speaker of the House and can decide which legislation sees the light of day. Welcome to democracy in action.
Using the her power as Speaker, she has prevented a vote on expanding drilling from even reaching the floor of the House. She has disregarded the wishes not only of millions of Americans but also those of her fellow Democrats -- particularly the so-called Blue Dog Democrats -- who wish to tap our nation's energy wealth to help our economy, gas prices, trade balance, and national security. She is the veritable epicenter of anti-drilling power politics.
Now we know one of the reasons Congress is held in such low esteem.
However, Speaker Pelosi is not alone in making her opposition clear. California's 's senior Senator Dianne Feinstein has joined the battle by writing an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times opposing efforts to increase offshore oil production. This effort would almost certainly and immediately help to bring down oil prices -- a fact that she seems unwilling to recognize or appreciate.
Of course, this would also send a message to the world's petrocrats that America has begun to realize that we are tiring of our fate resting in the hands of nations that wish us harm. Clearly, the fate of our economy should not be controlled by the whims of the very nations that sponsor terrorism and hate around the world. The Senator, unfortunately, promotes a myth that offshore drilling and production will not help our economy in either the short run or the long run. Both suppositions are wrong, and dangerous to boot.
She wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed:
The Senator is wrong. Sanford Bernstein (one of the most respected research groups) has produced an analysis noting how quickly the offshore resources off the coast of California can begin producing oil once the area is opened to production. To quote the Wall Street Journal:
Does Senator Feinstein keep track of the miraculous advances in petroleum engineering? Does she read the Wall Street Journal? A range of companies have created and are manufacturing a wide range of equipment that performed flawlessly in preventing spills and leakage. Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster Democrats have exploited quite well and should be well informed about, savaged a wide number of oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Did you hear about any oil leaks, any environmental disasters due to oil mixing with water? No, and not just because it was missed among the caterwauling from Democrats about Bush's performance during the Katrina disaster. There was no leakage, no damage from the scores of oil drilling platforms in the Gulf.
Even her own constituents in California seem to be more aware of the need to tap their own resources. Forty-three percent of Californians now support the idea of drilling along the nation's coast and the trend is rising; that number may top 50% soon. This estimated correlates with other polls about Americans as a whole: 47 percent of Americans want increased domestic exploration and production and less reliance on Middle Eastern oil; even among self-described liberals, support for increased domestic production has jumped to 45% from 22% just in the last few months
Many Californians are aware that their state's growth was propelled by its natural resources: gold, agriculture and oil (California is the nation's fourth largest producer of gas and oil). Oil pumps even dot Beverly Hills, though they are often camouflaged.
Californians suffer from sky-high gas prices (among the highest in the nation) despite being the source of much of the nation's oil. (You can blame taxes and regulation.) They also labor under tax rates that are devastating their checkbooks and sending their jobs to other states and nations. Perhaps Californians might start looking up along the coast north to Alaska. That state's citizens are beneficiaries of a more progressive (in the true sense of the word) outlook regarding the oil industry. They enjoy checks being sent to them from taxes paid by oil companies when they extract oil from Alaska. Even now, Alaskans -- more experienced than most Americans when it comes to evaluating the merits of oil exploration -- are advocating increased exploration and production in their state.
If California wants to keep spending to fund a state university system that is a source of pride, and represents, at least theoretically, a move away from natural resources to tapping inexhaustible human resources, Californians should start thinking about the material resources that they can tap to fund the future.
Governor Sarah Palin (an emerging Republican star) has asked that ANWR be opened for development. . Virginia and Florida -- also a state that cherishes its coastline -- are also considering opening their offshore areas to drilling.
I find it ironic that Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein (and Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer) from a state that has pioneered technological advances refuse to inform themselves about the advances made in oil exploration technology. Underwater robots, undersea platforms (that are invisible above the surface -- that should reduce the argument about unsightly oil platforms), strengthened pipes and metal alloys, seismic advances that make oil easier to find, drilling techniques (horizontal drilling) that allow pockets of oil to be tapped that previously were uneconomical to develop) -- all have played a role in increasing oil production in America and around the world. Robotic operated vehicles -- unmanned robots that make offshore drilling safe by remotely inspecting and maintaining pipelines, assisting in drilling, and cleaning up any debris -- are in the forefront of the technology curve. All this technology and more is being applied to make offshore very secure and safe. The safety record of offshore oil platforms has been exemplary.
By blocking offshore energy development, Nancy Pelosi and company are also damaging our international competitiveness. America has led the world in oil and gas technology; however, we will increasingly forfeit this leadership role to foreign competitors if we foreclose development offshore in our own nation. Most of the future energy development will take place in offshore areas around the world. Brazil has announced giant oil discoveries off its own shores-and is rapidly developing them. China is developing Cuban offshore oil reserves. West African offshore oil supplies are enormous-and relatively safe from domestic turmoil. We will lose these export markets-and whatever influence we have-if we abandon those markets to more adept international competitors.
Environmentalists changing their tune
We have seen the same dynamic at work in the nuclear field (another area where Democrats have blocked and tackled): nations and companies around the world are developing and building and exporting nuclear power plants (France, China, Russia) while our nuclear energy industry is going down the drain. We already have a dearth of nuclear engineers and are falling behind the curve in developing nuclear power. Even many environmentalists are discovering the benefits of nuclear power as a safe and secure energy source, that also does not emit the dreaded carbon dioxide of global warmists' fears.
This is not the only issue where environmentalists' views are evolving.
They are beginning to recognize that they can work with oil companies to "cut a deal" that allows increased oil production that protects the environment -- and this in California of all places. They are supporting an oil company's proposal to drill off the coast of Santa Barbara -- yes the very same city where an oil spill decades ago gave birth to the modern environmental movement while killing offshore oil development in California:
Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Company proposed drilling 22 wells from a platform 4.7 miles from land. It made numerous concessions to the local environmental groups that would curtail drilling in about a decade -- and in the end even the adamantly "no-drilling" crowd agreed that the deal was beneficial for everyone. The Environmental Defense Center, a nonprofit environmental law firm, endorsed the plan. Abe Powell, president of GOO!, told the Los Angeles Times it was "good for the community." Terry Leftgoff, a former GOO! executive director, wrote in the Santa Barbara Independent the deal was
Democrats routinely deride Republicans as being anti-intellectual, ill-informed and resistant to new ideas. Ironically, Democrats seem to be the ones who have blinders on when it comes to using new ideas in the form of technologies that would reduce our oil import bill and diminish the risk to our national security that comes from dependency on unstable and unfriendly oil exporting nations.
For Nancy Pelosi, opposition to offshore drilling was in her political DNA from the very start of her political career, but the times are a changing and so should the views of our politicians. When an environmental group formed for the sole purpose of opposing offshore oil drilling warmly embraces a plan to drill off its own coast, you know something important has changed in our culture: Americans have recognized that offshore oil drilling is largely safe.
Since 1975, drilling in the Exclusive Economic Zone (within 200 miles of the U.S. coast) has had a 99.999% safety record, according to the Energy Information Administration, which reports, "only .001 percent of the oil produced has been spilled."
Thanks to technological advances, large spills are rare. Most spills are tiny, only a few feet in diameter. Large tanker spills, such as the Exxon Valdez in 1989, are so infrequent they account for a very small fraction of the oil that winds up in the sea.
A joint study by NASA and the Smithsonian Institution, examining several decades' worth of data, found that more oil seeps into the ocean naturally than from accidents involving tankers and offshore drilling. Natural seepage from underwater oil deposits leaks an average of 62 million gallons a year; offshore drilling, on the other hand, accounted for only 15 million gallons, the smallest source of oil leaking into the oceans.
Seventy four percent of Americans support offshore drilling. Maybe politicians might start considering their views and reconsidering their own myopic views. They are supposed to be our representatives, no?
For years, California has blessed the rest of America with a cornucopia of its riches-whether it be gold, the fruits of its orchards and vegetables from its gardens that ensured our nation's health. Medical advances have streamed from its laboratories; technological advances have transformed our nation and the world. The state's huge defense industry has kept our nation safe and secure. the state would fulfill its destiny once again by allowing its natural riches to be used by all Americans -- a development that would help pry the hands of oil tyrant's from our country's collective throat.
Maybe it is time for Californians to revive the spirit of Howard Jarvis and engage in their own exploring: a campaign to draft and gather signatures for a referendum mandating allowing old drilling and production off California's coast. There is insufficient time to get such a measure on the ballot for November, but even an effort to start gathering signatures could serve as a signal to the Democrats mandarins that ordinary citizens do not want to forsake the benefits of safe drilling offshore.
Were Senator McCain to throw his support behind such an initiative being presented to the citizens of California, it could help galvanize his campaign nationally, as well in California (which he is widely expected to lose to Obama). Because of the size and media visibility of California, this would help put the issue of drilling in the spotlight as the November election looms. To be sure Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes offshore drilling. His heart may still be in Hollywood, after all, and he is married to a Kennedy. For once, he may be out of touch with the direction of public opinion.
Such as referendum campaign has quit a decent chance of succeeding, stereotypes of California as the land of liberals and greenies notwithstanding. Rising gas prices have devastated lower income Californians, a state where even the poor must drive to work and to shop. The state's rural Hispanics in particular are suffering economic deprivation, as are the rural poor nationally. Even in the coastal cities, commuters with long daily drives are quite sympathetic to an appeal that would lower their gasoline costs and generate revenue and perhaps avoid the 8 billion dollar tax increase the legislature's Democrats have proposed.
The citizens of California want relief from high gas prices, from threatened tax increases to pay for the state's colossal deficit, and relief from the ideological obstinacy of their own elitist politicians.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.