New Deepwater Drilling Permit Provides Platform for Perpetuating Myths

Guest Blog | March 10, 2011 | Energy Policy, Offshore Drilling

On February 28th, the Obama Administration issued its first deepwater drilling permit since the Gulf of Mexico disaster in April of last year. Noble Energy Inc. has been granted permission to continue drilling their deepwater well ( 70 miles southeast of Venice, La.) that they started before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The issuing of this permit is significant, and its ramifications are potentially dangerous for a region of our nation that is still recovering from the worst environmental disaster in our country’s history.

It appears that the Administration’s decision is a result of feeling both legal and political pressure to reopen deepwater drilling in the Gulf. Rising gas prices, high unemployment rates, and politicians holding key appointments hostage likely contributed to this most recent announcement. Despite the obvious link between the current political landscape and the issuing of this deepwater permit, Michael Bromwich, director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), insists that this decision wasn’t influenced by politics, but by Noble Energy’s demonstration of safety.

“Noble [Energy Inc.] had successfully demonstrated in recent weeks that it can drill its deepwater well safely and that it is capable of containing a subsea blowout if it were to occur.” Additionally, Mr. Bromwich stated that the administration expects to issue more deep-water drilling permits in “the coming weeks and months if companies demonstrate they can drill safely.”

Granting this deepwater permit has sent a clear signal to the oil industry, their lobbyists, and the elected officials who directly benefit from this industry that the Obama Administration is willing to escort our country down the dangerous energy path that will do nothing to lower gas prices or secure energy independence. This announcement provides yet another platform for conservatives to further perpetuate the myths and false promises that come along with drilling off our our coasts.

“This first deepwater permit is critical to restoring jobs in Louisiana, especially at a time of rising gas prices and turmoil in the Middle East. The United States cannot afford to continue its reliance on foreign energy when so many of our natural resources sit idly by in our own backyard.” – Rep. Boustany (R-LA7)

Representative Charles Boustany’s statement clearly panders to the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” base that truly believes that if we continue pumping every drop of our resources out of the Gulf of Mexico we will somehow become free from foreign sources and unstable prices at the pump. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case.


Myth #1: More Drilling = Cheap Gas

Pro-drilling advocates have been using the argument that more drilling will lead to cheaper gas for years. Even on the February 9th edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the co-hosts suggested on live television that ramping up production in the Gulf could prevent gas prices from reaching $5 a gallon. This is simply untrue!

  • The graph on the right (source: US Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources) demonstrates that since 2000, drilling permits for oil companies have increased more than 361% while the price of gasoline has more than doubled.
  • According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the agency that provides data to the federal government, “Because oil prices are determined on the international market … any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.”
  • In 2009, EIA analyzed the difference between full offshore drilling and a moratorium to offshore drilling. By 2020, there is no impact on gasoline prices and in 2030 gasoline would be three cents a gallon lower.

Myth #2: More Drilling = Energy Independence

Based on current consumption rates (20 million bbl/day), even if we were to recover all of the “technically recoverable” oil in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and along our Atlantic shoreline, it would only last the US 13 months. We could drill every national park, wildlife refuge, and coastline, and still need to import over 60% of what we would need. U.S. offshore oil is only a drop in the bucket.

Why, when there is zero data that supports these myths, do politicians continue to rally behind this messaging? More importantly, why do many Americans believe them? Drilling for more oil only feeds our addiction. The only way we will ever reduce our dependency on foreign oil, or any oil for that matter, is to reduce our consumption.

We need real solutions to move us away from dangerous and destructive energy sources and toward clean, renewable energy options. We already have technologies to help us transition away from petroleum: greater fuel efficiency, hybrid and electric cars, and cellulosic biofuels all hold the promise of a clean energy economy. The video below highlights our path out of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.


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