Here we go again. Every time gasoline prices spike, no matter the reason, Republican leaders and talk radio’s libertarian elite reach for the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) latest talking points and crank up the “drill, baby, drill” rhetoric.
The current uptick in the price at the pump is not actually due to a supply crunch. It is due to market speculation that current turmoil in the Middle East will spread and lead to supply problems.
The notion that the U.S., which sits atop less than 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, can drill enough oil to drive down prices if the flow is interrupted from a region with 64 percent of the world’s reserves is a pipedream.
Over the past week a steady stream of Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (KY), House Speaker John Boehner, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI), have taken to the airwaves to complain that the Administration’s cautious approach to domestic oil drilling has caused this problem.
They are calling on the Administration to tap our nation’s “vast” oil reserves. Vast?
Upton even went so far as to say that high energy prices caused the recession and that the Administration’s cautious approach to domestic drilling will lead to a 1970s style oil crisis.
They all neglect to mention that the U.S. is already disproportionately depleting its scant 3 percent reserves to produce 8 percent of current global production. To get that 8 percent we currently have over 530,000 active wells. Saudi Arabia, by comparison, pulls out more oil with roughly 1,500 wells.
The map below depicts the real problem by sizing countries based on the amount of proven oil reserves they contain.
The GOP’s real energy crisis is one of focus. Republican leaders are focusing their energy on keeping America overly dependent on a resource that is far more plentiful outside our own borders. They largely dismiss the strategy of reducing demand and seem content to have us suck our own limited oil reserves dry as quickly as possible. It is a phony solution that they think will play well politically.
Peddling geologic ignorance may score some points with voters who don’t know any better, but it won’t bring the promised relief at the pump.
Their energy would be better focused on real solutions, such as diversifying our fuel choices, making automobiles go further on a gallon of gas, and finding other innovative ways to use less oil.
Of course it is difficult to offer real solutions when politics trumps reality.
The latest political sleight of hand by GOP leaders is to connect the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants with the spike in gas prices.
Taking his cues from Upton, who is trying to pass his legislation to block EPA, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said:
If the White House has its way — and the EPA imposes a backdoor national energy tax — gas prices will only go higher.
Someone might want to inform the Speaker that the gasoline Americans buy at the pump is made from oil, not coal.