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Is America Force Feeding American’s Oil?

May 15, 2011


On top of declining oil prices, declining petroleum consumption, a slight increase in the use of renewable energy, market launch of electric vehicles and U.S’s renewed sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions, America is looking at reopening the door to offshore drilling.

Last week, The Obama administration announced an interest to “open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time.”

Politics aside, any immediate measures to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is in America’s best interest. With national priorities on energy security, economic prosperity and a cleaner environment, it makes sense to use domestic resources. However, with the door open, the question is, if and when will the door close to allow mainstream adoption of cleaner fuels? Short term wisdom does not always translate to long-term vision.

To exasperate the situation, last week the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences issued a sharp warning that “not only is global warming real, but the effects are already becoming serious and the need has become “pressing” for a strong national policy to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases.”

Unfortunately, America’s energy policy makers have boxed us in with few viable non-carbon based sources of energy. Furthermore, President Obama’s campaign pledges to “ensure 10% of U.S. electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025, and to establish a low national carbon-fuel standard” has evaporated as fast as a drop of water on the sun. The fact remains that after 40 years of federal spending for alternative fuels, renewables (not including hydroelectric power) constitutes about 6% of U.S.’s energy consumption.

According to the Minerals Management Service, an arm of The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (

• “….. 85 percent of the U.S. offshore – known as the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) – is currently restricted from oil and gas production.”
• “….. federal offshore waters hold great potential for expanding domestic energy resources over the next 5 to 15 years.”
• “….. U.S. Department of Interior estimates that there are currently 85.9 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available in federal offshore areas.”
• “….. accessing these known reserves would provide enough oil to produce gasoline to run 192 million cars and heat 78 million homes for 15 years;”
• “….. it is enough oil to completely replace current Persian Gulf imports for more than 60 years.
• “….. known natural gas reserves in the OCS in the lower 48 states alone would heat more than 75 million homes for 60 years.”
• “Provided environmental safeguards are met, offshore development would serve the national interest as a means of improving energy security, diversifying supply, increasing economic development, and generating important local, state and federal revenue.”

In closing, it’s difficult to argue against any of these points. The fear is; can America go another 60 years with our heads in the barrel!

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