Leader Oil Column

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader editorial page [pdf], which contains Managing Editor Joe Dunning's column about oil and the election.

Dunning's point is that Randy Kuhl may have an edge because Democrats have not taken action on a comprehensive energy plan, and they don't have a short-term strategy. Much of what he says makes sense. Even Nancy Pelosi's own summary of Democratic action looks pretty piecemeal.

Dunning's also right to say that taxing big oil won't lower the price of gas. However, Obama's recently released plan to use the oil tax to pay for a $1,000 rebate to taxpayers shows a clear connection between oil taxes and consumer relief.

But Dunning's mistaken when he classifies oil drilling as a short-term solution, and contrasts it with the new fuel mileage standards, which won't kick in until 2020. He's right that the deadline for the fuel mileage standards is too far in the future. But the drilling advocated by Republicans won't come on line until almost 2020, either.

Once you separate spin from reality on the drilling issue, it turns out that there's no short-term solution to the high price of gas. That's a politically unpalatable truth. If Democrats had a bold long-term plan, I think they'd be in better shape politically. But Randy's not going to win this election promising to drill. That one-trick pony doesn't have legs to make it to November.

Also, it's interesting to note that Dunning's column is the only piece on that whole page that says anything positive about Republicans. The editorials criticize McCain's negative campaigning and discuss Ted Stevens' indictment. The syndicated column criticizes Bush, and the commentary piece talks about the upside of higher energy prices.

The Leader editorial page has been traditionally conservative, and I think it still is. Real conservatives aren't happy with the direction of the supposedly conservative Republican party.


The people who oppose drilling are the same people who oppose nuclear and seem happy that we are paying more at the pump. Forget price, people understand that in 10 years there may not be enough oil to power our economy unless we start drilling now. They also understand that solar and wind power have been in the works for over 30 years and have gone nowhere. Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, is so popular that her book ranks 1,251 on Amazon.com

I think the willingness to drill is an issue with legs and will help Kuhl in November.

I oppose drilling but support expanding nuclear power.

With all due respect, I think you're letting partisanship get the better of you with the drilling issue -- both in terms of its effect on oil prices and in terms of its potency as a political issue.

Actually, having reviewed your previous comments on drilling, I see you that you are realistic about its limitations as s short term fix. So I take back what I said.

Nevertheless, I think you are unfair to say everyone who opposes expanded drilling also opposes expanding nuclear power. It's a bit like if I said everyone who favors drilling also drives a Hummer (something I do not believe is true -- I have no idea what you or Stan or other pro-drilling Republicans drive).

I don't think everyone does, but probably a majority.

Dunning is a democrat and on this one he is simply calling it like he sees it - kuhl and his republican colleauges are right on drilling and massa and the dems are wrong. On this issue I couldn't agree with Dunning more.

This isn't convincing at all. It sounds like a partisan rant to me.

Elmer: The price of oil has more than doubled in the last year or so. That's a huge change in the energy economy. A whole bunch of new technologies that have been around for 30 years, which haven't been used because they couldn't compete with cheap oil, are now economically competitive. Those technologies include solar, wind, and new oil extraction technology. The "either we drill or we run out" argument totally ignores this new economic environment. I'm willing to bet on new technology that is now affordable, and I think a lot of Americans will agree with that.

Also, Pelosi's book is not the most popular, but I don't think Republicans are doing themselves any favors when they try to make her the issue. Do you think that many people went to the polls and voted for a Democrat because they hated Denny Hastert?

Stan: I'm sure Dunning is calling it like he sees it, but I disagree with how he's seeing a couple of points.

Rotten - we heard all this in the 70's. Not only did the price of oil skyrocket, but we were also told that we only had a 10-20 year supply left. Even that didn't spur the development of new technologies.

Your history is a little off. There might have been some hysteria about the supply of oil in the 70's, but what really happened was that OPEC limited supply.


But that was counterproductive, because demand decreased. Here's the demand graph:


So, OPEC turned the oil on and, as you can see from this graph, after a mid-late 70's spike, the price of oil settled down to its historical average:


OPEC realized that limiting production was going to force a switch to other energy sources, so they stopped trying to limit the flow of oil.

The problem of the 70's was that we realized that we are at the mercy of Middle East oil producers, but we didn't do anything about it. Despite all the rhetoric about US drilling, the reality is that oil is a global commodity and most of it is under the control of Middle Eastern countries. We owe it to our children to do something other than drill, so they won't have to be at the mercy of the Middle East the way that we are.

"The problem of the 70's was that we realized that we are at the mercy of Middle East oil producers, but we didn't do anything about it."

What makes you think it will change now? We were told at the time that we would be out of oil soon - and we are more dependent now than ever. Both political parties were calling for renewable energy sources back then.

I have no idea if any set of politicians will implement new energy technology. What I do know is that voting for politicians who tell us they can drill our way out of the problem will make it certain that we don't implement new technologies.

Also, keep in mind one difference between the late 70s and now: the booming economies in India and China that are competing for the world's supply of oil. So, even if we aren't at the end of our oil supply, it does look like oil will be tight for the foreseeable future. In the late 70s, we were the only game in town, so if we cut our consumption, prices fell. Now, India and China will keep prices high by consuming more.

This makes it even more important for us to develop technologies that wean our country off of oil. Obama's new plan seems like a reasonable, pragmatic approach:


I love everything in Obama's plan, but I will believe it when I see it. Until his 150 MPG hybrids come on line and until the 5,000,000 new jobs are created to assist clean energy and until 25% of our energy comes from renewable sources as he says, I say we keep digging and even start to export and use more coal.

The only part of his plan that he can guarantee is short term relief at the pumps with some sort of stimulus payment to taxpayers.

What I like about Obama's plan is that the technology is realistic. For example, though 150MPG hybrid seems like a huge number, we're not talking about crazy new technology. Chevy plans to bring a plug hybrid into production that can go 40 miles without using gas:


Also, a regular hybrid modified to take a charge overnight can get more than 100 MPG:


How about this car?

Elmer -- will you vote for Obama if he uses the windfall profits tax to buy one for everyone in the 29th district?

Has anyone explored the claims by the oil companies and republicans that the leases they already have hold no drillable
oil (or maybe no profitable oil). It seems to me to be in all our interests that this be fully vetted before more control is handed over to them. If the expected result of more drilling will be lower oil prices, wouldn't it follow that oil companies would be actually acting against their own interests by spending more to receive less profits? Who do they answer to?
Just trying to understand.

I read something about oil companies and leases somewhere (couldn't find a link) that said oil companies like to have as many leases as possible in reserve. For an oil company, that's like money in the bank, because they're always looking for new places to drill after their current wells run dry.

So, it is in the interests of oil companies to demand that we drill everywhere, even if they have no intention of drilling there in the near future. And, of course, it is in oil companies' best interest to have enough scarcity of oil to ensure high energy prices, without having so much scarcity that consumers demand new energy sources. So oil companies are going to pound the table for drilling everywhere, lock up those leases, and drill them at their convenience, dribbling out just enough oil to keep prices high and consumer dissatisfaction at a manageable level.

As I've said before, I have no major problem with more drilling in ANWR if it is part of a comprehensive energy strategy. But we need to put in countermeasures to the oil companies natural tendencies. Part of that strategy should be time limits on all oil leases on federal land, so oil companies use it or lose it. Lease prices should not be one-time payments, they should be recurring payments indexed to the price of oil.

Unfortunately, the current Republican rhetoric on drilling ignores all these factors.

Nice summary of what's going on at the Leader. While I think Dunning is off base, there's no question that the Leader's political coverage is far superior to that of the Gannett papers in the area.

I believe Dunning is a Republican, though, no? Regardless of his affiliation, I respect his candor, even when I feel he is mistaken.