Want Energy Independence? Don't Look to Drilling. - Oceana USA
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May 7, 2010

Want Energy Independence? Don’t Look to Drilling.

After the Deepwater Drilling Disaster began 17 days ago, we’ve all tried to figure out why we should continue to expand drilling offshore.

For those who think it’s because it will help us achieve energy independence, think again. There is no way that we can drill our way to energy independence – and the government knows it.

Right now, we get about 65% of our oil from other countries, the biggest sources being Canada and Mexico. And government studies show that all the oil in US waters wouldn’t change that figure much. It would only lower it to about 60% at best. A government study expected to come out soon shows that even that much is unlikely.

The Department of Energy (DOE) was supposed to release its full Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) last week, but its deadline has been pushed back to May 17th. Fortunately, the DOE provides us a sneak peak of what some of its figures are figuring.

The new AEO methodology shows that drilling all of our oceans will not give us energy independence. The study assumes that all of the Pacific and Atlantic are open for oil and gas drilling, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico is opened up in 2022. For the Atlantic, DOE assumes there’s a 50-mile “buffer” where offshore oil and gas drilling wouldn’t be allowed, but otherwise, the entirety of the Atlantic and Pacific are up for grabs.

This graph shows the new figures – and it says that, at best, we could hope to get to a point where we are only importing 58% instead of the 62% we are importing now. 

Basically, opening all of our oceans to offshore oil drilling will not result in energy independence. Drilling offshore to gain “energy independence” is a sham, a hoax, a lie. The only real way to achieve energy independence is to cut and eventually eliminate our oil addiction, and move to clean, renewable, domestic energy sources, like offshore wind power.

Previous estimates of offshore oil resources off the Atlantic Coast have been a lot higher.

This AEO estimates that there might be 2.7 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in the Atlantic – about 30% less than previous estimates. The AEO from last year estimates that complete offshore drilling might lower gasoline prices to $3.88 in 2030, from $3.91 without additional drilling.

So we open our coasts to offshore oil and gas, and it does almost nothing to gas prices?  That’s less than the amount prices change if the wrong button is pressed on Wall Street. Obviously, a lower offshore oil supply estimate would likely make those 3 cents worth of savings disappear.

With this little oil out there, there is clearly no reason to expand offshore drilling and take the risk of having another Deepwater Drilling Disaster somewhere else. The Arctic, and places like the Chesapeake Bay, the Outer Banks, California Coast, and the beaches of Florida are too precious to trade away for no public benefit.

Tell the President and Congress to ban any new drilling in these areas, including for exploration, permanently.

I can’t help but wonder if the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig disaster has had something to do with the date on this new AEO getting pushed back. If our oceans become protected from offshore oil drilling (like they had been for the past 30 years under bipartisan agreements), DOE’s numbers will change – but only slightly.

Simon Mahan is a Campaign Analyst at Oceana.