Saturday, April 3, 2010

Drilling For Time

President Obama's announcement that oil drilling will be expanded in select areas (including in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, out of sight of Florida beaches) generated cries of dismay from environmentalists and moody denunciations of "Not enough!" from Republicans. Which indicated to me that the President has managed conveniently to mortar one more brick in Democrats' election strategies for this November. I read that the anti-abortion funding supported by executive order was a deal that allowed vulnerable Democrats to vote No to protect their election chances by bringing onboard sufficient anti-abortion Democrats to ensure the bill's passage. By such means are deals won on Capitol Hill.

The oil drilling decision seems like another of those politically motivated moves that may have positive spin for the election but one wonders if indeed the opposition has a point. The possibility of tar balls underfoot while strolling the pristine sugary beaches of Lee County should be enough to make that nest of conservative voters wonder if perhaps energy independance come sat too high a price, epseically as California's coast will see no new drilling in response to heated local opposition to any such notion. Should we expand drilling, one has to wonder?

In the past I was generally in favor of conservation and in opposition to expanded drilling, not least because drilling seemed unlikely to lead to anything other than increased consumption. I permit myself to wonder if perhaps this time around we might break that cycle and use any extra time purchased by expanded drilling to enable us to implement alternative energy strategies. On the one hand I would like to see energy consumption drop, on the other hand I am not sure how that is going to happen- I drive, I like air conditioning as much as any northerner needs winter heat, I like electric lights and the Internet... and so I wonder how we can move easily to a world powered by the relatively inefficient alternative energy supplies. We need time and we need money.

We've spent enormous amounts of future earnings bailing out the banks and we have waste ddecades ignoring future energy constraints. We see oil at $85 a barrel and rising and new oil discoveries are located in deep waters off Brasil and mexico and possibly the Falkland Islands. Not in places that are easy (and thus cheap) to exploit. I guess my feeling is that if we can rely on our leadership to use any extra time wisely, we can support expanded oil drilling as a way to help buy that time. Which seems rather iffy to me, until I see solar panels and wind generators sprouting as a matter of course in our lives, and natural gas powered engines filling up at the pumps alongside gasoline (not ethanol!). We'd better start soon as oil still holds the most concentrated supply of easily accessed energy we have ever seen and whatever does come next is going to have a tough act to follow.


An anti-socialist said...

This country hasn't had a viable "energy strategy" since - what - forever? If the current minion in the oval office could execute one, THAT would be an achievement.

Exxon, BP, Chevron, Shell, etc. will never let it happen.... but we will be entertained by the puppets dancing in DC...

Conchscooter said...

It doesn't seem likely that things will get better.