Yet Another Drilling Post

When Randy Kuhl chose to take a page directly from Newt Gingrich's book and make drilling the centerpiece of his energy program, he chose to ignore what we've know for at least 35 years: we are far too dependent on a commodity that's extracted in some of the most contentious corners of the earth. Instead of attacking this problem head-on, he chose to mouth a comprehensive energy plan while advertising a "business as usual" solution.

That would be fine if "business as usual" were presented honestly. But the case coupling drilling more with paying less in the near term is so tenuous that Kuhl and others following the Gingrich gameplan have to rely on a set of false claims to make their case.

Today's press conference is a prime example. Let's start with John Boehner's claim that we can begin to see the benefits of drilling in ANWR and other off-limits locations in less than a year. He said, "You have to remember that the people who are saying it will take ten or fifteen years are the same people twenty years ago who said it would take ten or fifteen years." These nefarious "same people" are none other than the Bush Administration's Department of Energy. If those people are such wet blankets, the Bush Administration has had almost 8 years to replace them with optimists.

In addition to Boehner's willful ignorance of reality, Randy Kuhl's crazy oil production math, which we've seen before, is still in evidence. Today, he claimed that Nancy Pelosi's advocated release of 10% of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve tells us that drilling everywhere would lower the price of gas by half. This is such a complicated tale that it needs to be untangled piece-by-piece.

Kuhl says Pelosi claimed that releasing 10% of the SPR would lead to a 5 cent drop in gasoline. She might have said that at some point, but she didn't say it in her letter to the President. Pelosi only cited the fact that previous releases had lowered the price of crude; she made no prediction. Even so, 10% of the SPR is 70 million barrels of oil. At beginning of offshore and ANWR production, 3-4 million barrels will be produced per day (that's in 2018, see here and here.) Assuming it takes a couple of weeks to get 10% out of the SPR, ANWR and offshore's affect on supply is about par with a SPR release. They certainly aren't 40 times more effective, which is what it takes to make Kuhl's math work.

One final thing to think about: oil production is a market-driven business. Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram tells us that natural gas producers are already fearing a glut in production. The high price of natural gas, along with some new extraction technologies that are now cost-effective, have spurred production of known reserves to an all-time high. If the Kuhl/Boehner/Gingrich fantasy were true, and oil companies could begin drilling everywhere all at once, they would flood the market and eventually lose their economic incentive for drilling.

That's why it's so irresponsible for Kuhl to hold out the promise of $2/gallon gas. We've never seen that kind of price change in the last 30 years, because once that market makes a stairstep price adjustment, it doesn't look back, no matter what tall tales Congressmen dream up.