Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bill Press on energy: More liberal misconceptions

Bill Press’ column (
For 6/19/08, titled “MCCAIN SELLS OUT TO BIG OIL” repeats a number of liberal misconceptions that need to be corrected.

He says

Just look at the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain on energy. Obama proposes a windfall profits tax on big oil companies to help develop wind and solar energy, research new alternative energy technologies, and wean ourselves from fossil fuels. McCain proposes drilling for oil off the coast, one of the oldest and worst ideas in the Big Oil pipeline.

Since when is the government a source of innovation? Government labs don’t have to show a profit, so they don’t have to develop practical, market-oriented technology. Government grants go to universities and research labs that also don’t have to show a profit. True, useful products and technologies come from university research, but they would come much faster if the universities would partner with profit-making corporations. Generally the government doesn’t require this. Jimmy Carter proposed a massive “Synfuels” effort during his administration. Whatever happened to that?

He continues

Offshore drilling will destroy our most beautiful stretches of coastline, and wreck our valuable tourism and fishing industries. And it will continue our dependency on fossil

This is based on the drilling technology of the 60’s. It’s true that some spills occurred during drilling then, but drilling and production techniques have improved since then. During Hurricane Katrina no oil was spilled from platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to spills from tankers, the spills from drilling are miniscule.

He writes
Even if the moratorium were lifted tomorrow, it would take at least 10 years to develop the offshore rigs and onshore tanks, pipelines and roadways necessary to begin production.

This is like saying, “Why should I start college? It’ll take 4 years to get a degree.” If we had continued to explore for petroleum deposits, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in now. If we start now to explore, the potential for new production will calm speculation in oil futures, which will apply downward pressure to oil prices. And in ten years we won't be experiencing the shortage we are dealing with now.

Continuing, he writes
By that time, with a new energy policy, we could be well on our way to a new, alternative-energy future.

No one is saying we shouldn’t develop alternative energy sources. But this will require considerable time, and current estimates indicate that known alternative energy sources are not capable of supplying the energy we currently use. So time will be needed to develop new energy sources and implement conservation measures. In the meantime we need petroleum.

Finally he writes

Offshore drilling won’t bring any relief for consumers, either. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates there are 18 billion barrels of oil in the moratorium areas. At present rates of consumption, those fields would be exhausted in less than 2 1 /2 years. According to the Campaign for America’s Future Online, lowering the price of crude by $1 per barrel saves roughly 2.5 cents per gallon. Which means that getting rid of the ban on coastal drilling would lower the price at the pump by less than 6 cents — by 2025.

Mr. Press fails to mention the huge petroleum reserves locked in the oil shale deposits in Colorado and other western states. Extraction technology for getting at that oil in an environmentally safe way is not yet available, but progress is being made.

The alternative energy sources Mr. Press mentions should be developed. But at present they are expensive compared to petroleum and not capable of supplanting the role of petroleum. For the present we need to continue to explore for and develop petroleum, while continuing to develop alternative energy sources.

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