California Knows: Offshore Drilling Doesn’t Make “Cents”


Posted on 15 July 2008

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by emailSend by email

California-coast.gifBy Jim Metropulos
Legislative Representative
Sierra Club California

President George W. Bush’s July 14 Rose Garden announcement that he planned to open the nation’s coastline to offshore drilling had California’s leaders smelling a rat.

Later that morning, Senate President pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) took time during a morning press conference to say he hoped the California Legislature would bring “bipartisan resistance” to any offshore drilling proposal. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement reiterating his longtime view that “offshore drilling is not the answer.”

The places being suggested for new drilling have been deemed so special that Congress and consecutive presidents have protected them under an “Outer Continental Shelf” drilling moratorium since 1981.

California’s leaders and Sierra Club California know we can save more oil through energy efficiency than through drilling our precious coast. The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) own data show that getting the first oil from currently protected areas would take at least a decade. Sadly, the amount of oil predicted at peak production in 20 years would still be too small to have any significant effect on oil prices.

In fact, Sierra Club California’s allies at the Natural Resources Defense Council have estimated oil prices would drop just 3 to 4 cents, if all of the offshore drilling that’s proposed takes place. And that’s at today’s gas prices!

Oil companies already hold some 5,500 offshore leases they aren’t even using. This March, companies spent a record $3.7 billion securing, according to the Minerals Management Service, a U.S. agency that tracks and manages mineral rights. The number of drilling permits on federal lands has doubled in the last five years while the price of gas almost tripled.

As another California leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said yesterday morning, “It's time to tell the oil industry: ‘You already have millions of acres to drill. Use it or lose it.’” Her Senate colleague, California Sen. Barbara Boxer, already has around 10,000 Americans’ signatures on her petition against lifting the moratorium.

What’s more, Californians already are working on solutions. Conservation, alternative energy sources and technological advances represent cheaper, faster, cleaner, surer ways to meet America’s energy needs while reducing the threat of global warming. California already gets it: the California Air Resources Board is fighting the Bush Administration to protect our state’s Clean Car Law, written by then-Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica) which will improve the fuel efficiency of new cars to 43 miles per gallon in 2020. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration’s newest draft fuel efficiency standards only seek 35 mpg efficiency.

With the U.S. on track to use an estimated 21 million barrels of oil per day, the Bush Administration should be following California’s lead – not standing in its way. In court and in Congress, the administration continues to block and stall efforts to make realistic, achievable gains in energy efficiency and turn back what even President Bush has dubbed an “addiction to oil.”

I applaud California’s leaders in their efforts to protect the coasts and to lead the way. They won’t sell our serene coastal views cheaply for a quick, meaningless fix.

Jim Metropulos is a Senior Advocate at Sierra Club California, where he focuses on water and energy policy.