Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tank full of Stupid

I don't know who started this trend of using "stupid" as a noun but it cracks me up almost every time. Consider this recent Tom Toles cartoon (above). My absolute favorite joke is from Atrios who said of the internet in general, paraphrasing a line from "2001: A Space Odyssey": "My God, Its full of stupid..."

Speaking of full of stupid, consider the call for off-shore drilling as a way to lower gas prices. There are a couple of ways this is dumb. First, its not like there's a switch ready to be thrown and the gas starts flowing. Those off-shore sites need to be developed which means someone needs to build a rig, start drilling, etc. It will take years for that oil to reach the market. Second, our current U.S. oil producing fields are continuing to decline. By the time those off-shore sites come online, they won't even make up the lost production between then and now. Finally, the total amount available is just a blip on the world production and world production is what sets the price. You need to discover a Saudi Arabia-size oil reserve to lower prices and there aren't any of those left.

In his column last week, Paul Krugman made this observation about off-shore drilling boosterism from John McCain and the lies around it:
Mr. McCain’s claim that opponents of offshore drilling are responsible for high gas prices is ridiculous — and to their credit, major news organizations have pointed this out. Yet Mr. McCain’s gambit seems nonetheless to be working: public support for ending restrictions on drilling has risen sharply, with roughly half of voters saying that increased offshore drilling would reduce gas prices within a year.

Hence my concern: if a completely bogus claim that environmental protection is raising energy prices can get this much political traction, what are the chances of getting serious action against global warming? After all, a cap-and-trade system would in effect be a tax on carbon (though Mr. McCain apparently doesn’t know that), and really would raise energy prices.
I offer this anecdote to corroborate Krugman's observation: a co-worker of mine who has a somewhat conservative family told me some of them believe the recent fall in gas prices is because Bush signed an executive order lifting the ban on offshore-drilling. Sigh. That EO just reversed a previous EO and did nothing. Congress has to authorize the drilling for it to happen. Gas prices have declined because demand has declined. It turns out Americans will indeed drive less if gas gets too high.

What I take away from this is in addition to trying to educate the public about the climate system, we also need to educate them about where all their energy currently comes from. High prices may help with that. Soon everyone will understand the difference between "light, sweet" and "heavy" crude oil.


Jaxon said...

I just ran across this interesting article "Drill Here, Drill Now," that delivered a number of interesting points about offshore drilling. One interesting fact is that 620,500 barrels of oil ooze organically from North America's ocean floors each year, compared to the average 6,555 barrels that oil companies have spilled annually since 1998. It's an interesting article and i suggest you read it.

Rob said...

Hi Jaxon,

The article you pointed me to is filled with some good and some questionable numbers that I unfortunately don't have time to research. I'll address the oil point: Oil that oozes onto the ocean floor stays there and doesn't wash up on beaches. Oil spilled on the surface is much more damaging because it spills in to the sunlight-filled "photic zone" were most of the life is located. So offshore drilling has a zero chance of affecting your gas price and a nonzero chance of ruining some coastline. I know what chance I want to take.

Anonymous said...

So, if offshore oil is just a blip, why oppose private enterprises spending money (or not) to develop them? Would you not rather have money be spent here versus sending it overseas? Again, if it's just a blip, why the opposition? Why not be intellectually honest and say that you are really for high gas prices?


Rob said...

Hi Chris,

I'm against risking an oil spill on our wonderful sea shores for no benefit. The damage oil spills do is no blip.

Please, Chris, no one in their right mind is "for" high gas prices. We're just at different stages in the grief process over the death of cheap gas. You are in the denial or possibly anger stage.


BrianR said...

The "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" meme should be changed to the more accurate "Drill in specific locations after a lease sale that is only open to domestic companies, Drill in 6-7 yrs from now because of the long queue of drillship activity, Pay a tiny percentage less 30 yrs from now"

This doesn't roll off the tongue quite so well; nor does it get people all worked up for nothing.

Read this report from the EIA (i.e., Bush administration), which indicates that the increase in daily production rate (rate, not so much absolute volumes is the real key) by <2% by 2030. Re-read that. Yes, less than 2%.
If one doesn't like the EIA's resource assessment, one could use much more optimistic assessments and still not bump this increase in domestic production rate by more than a few percentage points.

These are the numbers, people need to start quantifying things in this discussion. If somebody thinks the increase in production rate could be significantly higher than the EIA's, then please share that reference (I may have missed it).

Go ahead and drill ... then what? This is not even close to a real solution, yet it's the next big conservative movement (Newt loves it!).

I blog about the OCS here.

Rob said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the link. That's a great post.