Today the Washington Post reported that John McCain has a solution to America's energy crisis: drill more oil by opening up more federal lands. The solution is not surprising, given that Mr. McCain has taken nearly $1 million dollars in contributions from Big Oil so far this year.
There's only one problem: there is no guarantee that the leases will be drilled. And even if they are drilled, it is no guarantee that the oil won't be sold to foreign nations. Second, the plan is little more than a continuation of Dick Cheney's 2001 energy plan.
The flaw in Mr. McCain's plan is that it relies on the oil industry to actually drill for oil on the land that it leases. It assumes that we have a competitive market for oil and that large mulitinational oil companies will rush to drill once the lands are made available.
This assumption is highly unlikely. According to a new report by the Congressional Committee on Natural Resources, oil companies could immediately begin harvesting an estimated 4.8 million barrels of oil each day from existing leases on US lands. The report notes that according to the Federal Minerals Management Service, 79% of the USA's underground/undersea oil supply is already available for leasing.
"Drill Our Way Out of It" is not a new idea. In fact it is a very old idea crafted entirely by the oil industry in an effort to keep the U.S.A dependent on imported oil for the next 50 years. "Drill Our Way Out of It" is Dick Cheney's original, failed energy policy of 2001 (click here to read the actual policy). It should be noted that the Cheney Plan was crafted entirely by oil and energy industry executives (source) including convicted energy criminal Ken Lay, who was later identified as a key participant in creating the rolling blackout energy crisis of 2001.
For years the oil industry has used a similar argument to "Drill our Way Out" to explain high gas prices. For example, it has repeatedly stated that "no refineries have been built in the last 35 years." This is a carefully crafted statement that is intended to deceive voters into thinking that the government is rejecting refinery applications.
The reality is that the oil industry doesn't want to build new refineries because more refineries mean more gasoline. More gasoline means the price of gas goes down, and that's bad for profits. If the industry really wanted to build more refineries with the hassle of paperwork, it could have taken advantage of George Bush's 2005 energy plan, which made abandoned military bases available to to oil companies that wanted to build refineries. To date, not a single company has taken Mr. Bush up on his generous offer.
So far Big Oil's phony supply side arguments have worked. Millions of Americans believe that the solution to high gas prices is to let the industry build more refineries. Now, Big Oil is using the same distorted lie to explain high oil prices by suggesting that we can drill our way out of this mess by exploiting treasured national parks.
And unfortunately, Mr. McCain believes them.