Eco-Restrictions Cap Oil Production

Environmentalists are to blame for reducing the U.S. oil supply. Pro or con?
Update! Hear a podcast in which our debaters address your reader comments.

Pro: We’re Wasting Potential Fuel Sources

The most basic law of economics is that of supply and demand. When supplies shrink below the level of demand, prices rise. Likewise, when demand increases above the level of supply, prices rise. When shrinking supply occurs simultaneously with increased demand, prices rise exponentially.

In the 21st century, U.S. environmentalists have unnaturally reduced the supply of oil. By shutting down virtually all domestic drilling (offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) and creating a myriad of regulations that effectively make it impossible to add new oil refineries, they have reduced the world’s supply of oil. They refuse to allow alternative energy sources, such as nuclear energy, and have even prevented installation of wind turbines in an effort to protect birds.

While the world’s supply was being systematically reduced, two new world-class oil-consuming customers emerged: India and China. Their rapidly accelerating appetite has created a demand that would have been difficult to satiate even with unfettered supply. In a world with unnaturally restricted supply, the problem has exacerbated dramatically.

Since it is unlikely we will persuade either China or India to reduce consumption, and it is equally unlikely that environmentalists will allow increased supply, we need to get accustomed to $4-, $5-, and soon $10-a-gallon gasoline, with all of its attendant consequences. So as you walk to work in the dark (assuming you still have a job), don’t forget to thank well-meaning but short-sighted environmentalists who put ideology ahead of practicality and basic economics.

Con: Alternatives to Drilling Abound

Americans are buckling under the high cost of gasoline, and everyone is eager to assign blame. President Bush is pointing the finger at environmentalists. He claims the best way out of this mess is to open even more public lands to drilling. Yet the Bush Administration has pushed this agenda for eight years, and all the numbers indicate that it has failed.

Between 1999 and 2007, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%. Companies can’t even keep up with their new opportunities: In the last four years the government issued 10,000 more permits than have been used.

Americans have not benefited from this land grab. In 1999 oil averaged about $24 a barrel. Now it is hovering around $140. And the plain fact is that America is home to 3% of the global oil supply. We simply cannot drill our way to cheaper oil prices.

So we could ruin the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge forever to get savings of a mere 3¢ to 4¢ per gallon—in five years. Or we could spend those five years encouraging Detroit to make more efficient cars and employing Americans in new clean-energy jobs.

We have solutions right now that can end our addiction to oil: plug-in hybrids, better-designed cities where we do not have to drive as much, and sustainable transportation fuels such as cellulosic biofuels. These solutions will not only make us less beholden to oil interests but also usher in a cleaner, more sustainable energy future for the U.S.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies. Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

Ronnie Cohen

Bill Bartmann is brilliant. No wonder the guy has been so successful in his career.I've been seeing a lot more of him recently in the news. Not sure why that is? But I'm thrilled about it. We can all learn from the guy. He should be a columnist for you.

random

There are a number of problems with Mr. Bartmann's argument. While there are extreme cases of environmentalism gone wild, they are not the norm and they haven't influenced the price of oil or the pace of oil extraction. What's really to blame for the dwindling domestic oil supply is geography.

First, ANWR isn't all that oil rich. Sure, in their quest to give oil companies permission to drill, President Bush and his camp--oilmen all of them--have made ANWR seem like the holy grail of oil extraction in the press. If we drill there, OPEC would be sweating bullets, some pro-drilling activists chanted. But it's not so. All or nearly all of the commercially viable oil pools in Alaska are now being exploited. As noted by Ms. Beinecke, Americans simply don't have enough oil at their disposal to drill themselves to lower oil prices. Saying that environmentalists blocking the drilling of ANWR accounts for more than a one-day rounding error in the price of oil is to ignore the sheer might of OPEC, speculation, and the size of proven oil reserves across the world.

Second, environmentalists don't block drilling or extractions in the most promising areas, those in the Gulf of Mexico. They simply ask the oil companies to be better stewards of the environment and make sure they don't leak oil into the ocean as best they can. This is hardly trying to restrict oil drilling.

Third, several cases of crazy or irrational environmentalists don't add up to a national campaign to prevent drilling. These should be dealt with on a case by case basis.

However, I would agree that nuclear power has come a long way and is far safer than environmentalists suggest. Nuclear power seems to invoke a doomsday reaction in environmental groups, although radiation from the sun has killed exponentially more people than all nuclear disasters, bombardments, and tests combined.

America is running out of oil and even if the entire country was drilled with no restriction, there wouldn't be more than 100,000 barrels extra per day coming in from such a venture. For a country that consumes millions and millions of barrels a day, this is simply not enough.

Paul

As most of you know, the Gulf of Mexico, although technically a challenging place to drill for the newest reserves, is still available and the on-shore infrastructure is already in place. The Rockies and the northern plains (Bakken formation) are in the continental U.S., and infrastructure is being constructed now.

Some of the oil and gas companies that recently developed Coal Bed Methane in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming have been less than stellar stewards of the land on which they operate, because the federal government--not the property owner--owns the mineral rights. So, I suggest that we have proven means to ensure proper environmental stewardship everywhere that oil and gas is explored for and developed; performance bonds. If the E&P entity adversely affects groundwater, surface water, or the habitats of listed species, the bond is called. If the cost of the bond is set adequately high, then the E&P firms will have an incentive to manage all of the resources properly.

Finally, in regard to the development of nuclear power, until a repository for spent rad waste is licensed and operational, forget that option. Unless of course, the proponents of nuclear power are volunteering their neighborhood for the temporary storage of the stuff.

Joe Lee

Drilling in the ANWR and elsewhere is needed. It would make gasoline prices come down--and not by 3 to 4 cents as suggested by Frances Beinecke. Ms. Beinecke is living in the dark age when it comes to calculating his number.

Andrew Fenaway

Not sure who Bartmann is or what makes him an expert, but he's dead on.

srujan behuria

Sure, go ahead and drill the Arctic refuge, make more species extinct, and destroy the most pristine forests left in the world. Of course, gas will be a dollar cheaper, and we as consumers will save money to drive our nice cars, while baby bears and other animals just die off. But then, no one else matters but us Americans and our money, right? To hell with the world, let's just drill everything and log all the forests out. Let's destroy the most beautiful part of the world so that we can save $2 a gallon. Let's not look for alternative means and fund R&D in alternative fuels. Let's not fund public transport means. Let's not build patience in the average American to use public transportation. Let's just drill and destroy and be short-sighted, because at the end of the day, it's only us Americans that matter, right?

Even if you drill, Joe Lee, it will run out eventually, and we will end up destroying the most amazing ecosystem in the world that God has built for us. And I'm not an environmentalist; I just want my kids to see this beautiful part of the world someday.

steve

The oil companies are restricting supplies to increase their profits.

They have plenty of land or water to drill in, but they aren't.

Steve

To Srujan Behuria,

You have been deceived by the media and politicians.

Drilling in ANWR will not destroy the wildlife.

1. The pictures being shown by the media are of the ANWR wilderness.
2. The proposed drilling site is in the ANWR coastal plain.
3. The combined ANWR area is about the size of South Carolina (19 million acres).
4. The proposed drilling site is about 2,000 acres inside the ANWR coastal plain. For comparison, the Dulles International Airport is located on 12,000 acres of land.
5. I've never seen pristine forests in the ANWR coastal plain. Just a flat coastal plain. Please show me.
6. The proposed drilling site is not that far from Prudhoe Bay.
7. Environmentalists do not want our kids or anyone else to see this beautiful part of the world. That would destroy the pristine environment.

And by the way, I agree that we need to develop alternative energy sources ASAP. I just believe that it will take time, so we had better begin securing as much available energy now .

Screw the spotted owl. Go nuclear.

daniel

Face it, if oil gets cheaper, people will buy SUVs again. It will be a short relief. We will then consume more oil and will return eventually to the same situation. Politicians need to commit seriously to energy-efficient cars.

John H

What would happen if about $5 billion went into buying solar panels to place on every government building, rather than subsidizing oil exploration? That would be about 1 billion watts of potential energy (the extra billion dollars to pay for installations, say of a minimum of 10 kw roof or shade projects). Efficiencies aside, best latitude aside, just purchase and install, and the savings (payment for the energy by the governments using the energy) go back into buying more solar or into the general fund or even tax cuts or something like that. How many installer and maintainer jobs would that create? How much R&D competition would that spur between solar tech companies as this capacity is bid on and contracted for? How much pollution would that reduce on an annual basis for the next 20-30 years that the cells should be good for? How many thousands of acres and hundreds of mountaintops could be left undisturbed rather than digging for coal? Or trashing and polluting land in search for uranium (oh yeah, that's right, nuclear is such a clean alternative and cheap, and there are no security concerns for it). Solar cells on buildings feeding back into the system where the infrastructure is already built could avoid having to split apart national parks with high tension power lines and huge ugly metal towers. Solar cells on buildings, while using the energy of the sun, would also shade the buildings, reducing the amount of energy needed to cool them. Solar, photovoltaic, passive, thin film, stirling, reflector, whichever, could be the next great public works project and would be a direct benefit to the average citizen (lower taxes, reduce government-caused pollution, jobs/paychecks, etc.). As new, more efficient cells become available, replace and auction off the old. Grant them to low income people/libraries/relief organizations to help them reduce their costs.

Yeah, yeah, high up-front costs. So what? The government wastes so much money on a daily basis, at least this would have a positive and measurable return on investment for years to come.
Time for me to get off of the soapbox and go home. Have a great 4th of July, everyone.

Rafael

We are entering a new stage in life. with the advancements of technology and the comprehension that the world won't stand unchanged by our deeds.

There is no reason we should depend on oil. If the U.S. government truly wanted sources to help the economy, then they could have long ago entered the new age of developing electric cars, electric trains, and solar power. All these things could be obtained and modified to a better standard with the command of the Congress and the President.

The only reason we haven't been able to enter this phase is that there are those who are simply too wealthy, and seek to prosper. There are 30 million cars in America that move every day, consuming millions of gallons of oil. No matter how many times we dig, we will still depend on foreign oil. What makes the U.S. weak is its dependency on other nations who have the power to twist our needs.

For America to truly remain powerful and independent, the U.S. must be the leader in new introductions to technology: Electric cars could be built, but those companies who can build them refuse to, since that will make them lose value.

One company depends on another to gain value. This is the reason so many excuses exist and are introduced to the minds of Americans. Those who can't see beyond their shadows will remain ignorant of what takes place. While so many remain as sleep, the world keeps its constant pace.

It is time to introduce the use of advanced technology. All that companies who sell cars have to do is simply change the body, but nothing else.

Logan

It's all a game of gains to those who control the American politics.

The U.S. government has the power to pass bills that will require such companies as GM to reintroduce the electric car, which by my view and research, could have made America much more easier, and send a message to the world. The U.S. government can give loans and and contracts to new companies who are willing to present to America new ways of travel. Yet some refuse to.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last true places where this world is still virgin to itself, and if we proceed to enter, we destroy not only our image but also our world. There has to be a balance.

Oil might have at one point become the source of energy for our nation. No longer. Our new source is electric power. We have to adapt and face reality--this is the future. We could have entered the electric era in 2000, but we did not.

Digging for oil is cheap and lazy; digging for new technologies is our best chance to remain on top. We have destroyed enough of America's nature, and it's time to turn and change direction.

Give free money to new companies that are at the moment trying to introduce new models.

LAO

This is the kind of debate that is all too common and hurts us all, because there is really nowhere left to turn to determine the real and unbiased answers, short of making a career of seeking them. It suggests that journalists are finding it just as difficult to separate real energy expertise from hidden agendas and wishful thinking.

Certainly, this moment could have been postponed if there had not been a large loophole left in CAFE standards through which SUVs and other gas-guzzlers were invited to slip. Whether that was to benefit the automotive industry or the oil industry, most of us will never know, but in either case, it didn't help this nation or the world much in the long run, and I resent the absence of open and conscious decision-making.

I do know that there is not an infinite supply of oil. I do know that the CEO of Shell has recently said that we can expect the end of easily accessible oil by 2015. I find credible reports that the infrastructure for building so many proposed nuclear power plants in the timeframe deemed necessary does not exist and that the supply of uranium will serve for only about 50 years, after which yet another variant of the technology would be required, and we're not preparing for that, either. I find credible evidence that the natural gas and hydrogen fuel cell stories are not much better for this country -- energy-intensive processes, requiring more importation, probably accompanied by further inflation-inducing weakening of the dollar.

Why can't we just have the debate about the long term energy policy that has to be faced sooner or later, define the trigger points, and rest comfortably that those who follow us will have something for which to thank us, or at least recognize the honest logic behind the decisions we made? If we would just do the math with as much unbiased data as possible, we might decide that Bartmann is right, but the time to create Bienecke-style pressures to save a bit of emergency oil for the future is upon us.

bandorks

What's so brilliant about Bartmann's simpleton views? Some of the stuff he mentions is obvious to everyone with more than a gram of gray matter, but along with that he sticks all kinds of fear-mongering non-facts. Compared to his opponent's clear and fact based analysis, Bartmann's figures as on a full athletic scholarship.

Hugo van Randwyck

Frances could sell her ideas with more information, including:

American car companies already have foreign operations that produce fuel efficient cars, e.g., 35 mpg cars.

The price mechanism of $9 a gallon of petrol has worked in all other countries in reducing oil demand per person.

Countries with high petrol prices have more advanced, efficient designs that they can export to other countries. In plain language, by having higher energy prices, manufacturers in the U.S. will be producing more goods that can be sold abroad--and so create jobs.

If people want to leave it to supply and demand, then all the increase in price will go to oil companies and countries abroad. Another option is being pro-active, raising taxes on petrol incrementally, and then refunding the tax directly to the public; adding $1.20 to a gallon would give a refund of about $600 a year.

We can see the price signal is already working, so how about raising taxes higher than other countries, so that instead of lagging behind, America will develop new technologies earlier. Moving from technological catch-up to parity to leadership.

George Bjorkman

While much has been said about ANWR, it's amazing that no one is commenting on the extremely large Bakken Oil Fields in the Dakotas and Montana. This is currently estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey as containing at least 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil. That would make it the largest known oil reserve in the world and would be equal to the total oil reserves of the entire Middle East.

What's holding it back from being exploited? The environmentalists and the restrictions they have forced Congress and earlier administrations to impose on domestic oil drilling and extraction.

The strange thing is that other than a recent request by George Bush to have Congress remove the restrictions, not a single politician running for office is discussing it.

And the main point is that it will not take 5 to 10 years to begin reaping the benefits from this fabulous wealth of oil.

JRGordon

It's 2008, and you cannot turn back the clock; you can only go forward. Yes, the folks on the extreme of the environmental movement have lobbied heavily for the U.S. to be a no-growth country--welcome to Rome.

In truth, we have abundant energy resources and would have enough energy if we allowed the private sector to drill and deliver oil and gas, built nuclear plants and finished the Nevada waste site that is essentially complete, except for one U.S. Senator, and allow solar and wind development. Conservation will take care of itself as energy costs rise in the short term (next 5-10 years). All of these energy sources can be developed with appropriate regulation to keep our Earth clean and healthy. Today we are held hostage by a lethal combination of environmental crazies and leftist politicians. At some point the average person will realize that it is not all business' fault--in spite of the media campaign to convince them of that.

Oscar Grainger

Love the comment about Bartmann's simpleton views. The guy cuts to the chase in a no nonsense manner anyone can understand. Makes more sense than anyone I have ever heard debate this topic. I agree with some earlier comments about the guy. He's so on. I did recently catch the guy on TV, but I'm not sure who he is exactly. Have to check him out. Curious what else he may have to say.

Richard

Must we wait until gas is $10 per gallon to start drilling and building refineries? I grew up in East Texas and saw the booms and busts. Drilling now and producing will buy us time, and that will cushion the blow to the pocketbooks. The changes we are facing are a direct result of not doing something when it was needed.

JC

The bottom line is that we use oil to create energy because it is the most efficient fuel we have. Any alternative energy source will be more expensive and have possible side effects worse than oil. We need to drill for more oil and keep using coal, and nuclear in an environmentally safe manner to help buy time to explore alternative energy sources.

I have to laugh when people blame George Bush and the big oil companies for the price of gasoline. More than 80% of the known oil reserves are owned by foreign countries (many of which are not U.S. allies).

Oil companies only make 33 cents profit on a gallon of gasoline, while state and local governments make 66 cents a gallon.

REX

You people are beyond stupid. Look around you. People lined up at drive-ins all over the country. Masses going to vacation stops, Yellowstone had a record month. Fireworks draw huge crowds. You could make a vehicle get 100 miles per gallon and there would still be high fuel prices. Lines paying high prices to fly to who knows where. Fuel should be rationed, as that is the only control you have. Do you think high fuel prices are going to keep Bill Gates or Warren Buffet and a few other billionaires home? Do you think these same people are going to buy a $25,000, 30-miles-per-gallon car? Not a chance. They ride in a limo that gets about 10 miles per gallon. You taxpayers are in direct competition with yourself. You are supporting welfare and immigrants, illegal and legal in the millions. I did the census, and I would estimate about half were counted. You are paying people to not work-- unemployment and not to farm, high food, and ethanol prices. These people all buy fuel except the farmer. Rex @ Portland, Oregon USA, ex-Air Force jet mechanic, ex-Dupont heavy industrial mechanic, ex-oil man, disabled veteran, 73 years old.

chris

At the end of the day, the U.S. needs oil. The U.S. uses 20 million barrels per day--10 million for automobiles alone. Even if we increased our average miles per gallon for each vehicle by 100%, that would mean we still need 15 million barrels overall per day. If we had the foresight to drill in ANWR and off of our coasts 10 years ago and increased our auto efficiency by only 10% during this period, there would be 4 million to 6 million additional barrels of homegrown U.S. oil on the market (net). This would easily mean that world prices would be down in the $30 a barrel range. We are a nation that has been hijacked by extremists. If we do not act soon, we will be in incredibly worse shape in 10 more years. Our very lifestyle and prosperity are at stake.

sue

I agree we need more energy-efficient cars and energy-efficient buildings. Energy shortages seem to be the only things that get us to move in that direction.

Sandy

The most basic common sense is that if we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels that generate carbon dioxide emissions, and cut down trees that moderate ground temperature and produce oxygen, then none of the above arguments will make much difference. If anyone wants to start a business that will warrant "demand," try "personal human oxygen tanks."

Dante

Blame or no blame, if I were an environmentalist freak, I would be ecstatic over this shortage in oil. The higher prices are finally forcing people to conserve energy and stop polluting the atmosphere. All the two-faced hypocrites who screech about the environment but in the meantime are pumping plumes of CO fumes out of their cute little cars instead of taking public transportation, are finally being forced to be eco-friendly. These higher prices may actually help halt global warming.

The ill-conceived laws on burning food for fuel are also good for the environment. Sure, those scums are burning down the rain forest now to plant sugar cane or beats for ethanol. But with enough increases in prices, more people will die off from starvation. Fewer people equal less load on the environment.

This is a win-win situation for any ELF and PETA groups.

Dan Matulich

Once one joins a religion, no facts in the world shall sway an individual's opinion. Facts don't matter then, because they are overridden by spiritual edicts that are not negotiable. No wonder the U.S. youth is not encouraged to join science and math disciplines, for that might create an obstacle later in life when dealing with various anti-growth movements. Liberal arts are encouraged, because they lead to a life of dependency supported by other bureaucrats who have been earlier duped to join environmental causes.

For recreation however, take punches at these facts:

Of a million of acres covering ANWR area in Alaska only a couple of square miles near the coast are being considered for energy exploitation. Photographs show that area to be a pure wasteland without any trace of wildlife.

Second, the number of polar bears in the Arctic area has actually increased from a mere 6,000 in the 1960s to more than 20,000 today.

Third, caribou seem to coexist very well with the crude oil pipeline that flows oil from the Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. The pipeline is elevated, leaving free space for the tallest animals to walk under it. It is doubly insulated. It allows for easy crossing, and it offers warmer grounds during cold Arctic nights.

Fourth, all Alaskans receive a yearly dividend from oil proceeds extracted on Alaskan soil and expect to get another from the natural gas extraction as well. This alone should serve as an example to all those who wish to do well around the world by helping all citizens in a nation that has natural resources rather than just the ruling class.
Regards,
Dan Matulich
California, USA

John H.

Oh yay, great Dan, you make it sound so pleasant. "Only a couple of square miles along the coast," which is only about 1,300 acres (1 sq. mile = 640 acres--way to whitewash it). And what a perfect area, because we know the oil companies do so well in not having leaks, not polluting groundwater, keeping their play areas tidy, cleaning up their messes in the ocean that have no effect on people or other animals when something goes wrong, and is so quick to pay for the cleanup and compensate the people whose livelihoods have been ruined--taking responsibility for their actions. Gee, with big oil (or any oil for that matter) and their illustrious humanitarian and social and environmental records, why should we even bother requiring them to go through a review process. Let them plant a well wherever the heck they want. Hey, what about San Francisco Bay? If we paint the wells and rigs orange they'll blend right in with the bridge.

Just to take a quick guess. I don't suppose you're one of those socially and environmentally conscious people who got a great deal on an SUV to park in the driveway of a house you overextended on with a fabulous subprime loan with a fuzzy animal balloon payment getting caught with your pants down? I will say I'm jealous of how much your state government is doing to try to reduce energy use and clean up the energy that is being used. It's too bad that the EPA (Environmental-tradeoff bigbizProtection Agency) didn't follow their lead and do good for the the citizens of this country rather than worry about paying off a few citizens "fortunate" enough to be paid off for the crap that's happening to their state.

On a different note, I don't think many of the U.S. citizens calling for drilling in ANWR (which is easy for them because it's not in their backyard) realize that very little of it will stay in this country, just as little of what's currently pumped out of Alaska now actually stays in this country. The East Coast cities are where the demand is, and it's too expensive to try to get that oil there. Hey, I know, if we built this giant metal pipeline, we could anchor it in all of the people's backyards who want more drilling, connect the East and West Coast like the railroad way back when. Just think of all of the benefits; jobs: lower energy bills, aesthetic beauty, lower stress levels because of lower energy bills. Some neighborhoods artists would have unlimited canvas, kids could hang swings and ropes from it to play on, and so on.

Okay, enough soapbox sarcasm.

Or an even better idea, everyone who plans to buy a vehicle, buy something that gets more than 30 mpg. Walk or bike to work if you're able. Change your house lighting to compact fluorescents. Reduce your use and consumption of plastic products (not everything should have to be more convenient and who knows, maybe a fewer chemicals in people's blood streams would help them be and feel healthier). Recycle whenever possible, especially metals and plastics. Buy fewer products that are made in China or from any dictatorial/repressive governed country. Do buy fair trade. Do buy from local businesses, small farms, and the like. Take responsibility for your actions.

J A Reyes

Bartmann is a stooge for the oil companies and is beating the drum against the environmentalists as if they are the only ones who have created this dilemma. That's the biggest crock of all. Detroit could have built fuel-efficient cars 30 years ago if it had wanted to, but it didn't. What are all those engineers doing in the Big 3 anyway? And while you're at it, blame American consumers for buying the marketing that the Big 3 has sold them on buying big SUVs that give low gas mileage. U.S. consumers have done this to themselves. Face up to it, and demand that everyone stop the finger-pointing and demand better fuel efficiency in cars and alternative fuels, now.

bill

Gas is crazy and was an explosion waiting to happen. I drive a gas-guzzling truck, but my commute is 4 miles each way. Gas is killing me. Drill, put up solar panels, turn corn into gas, whatever.
Turn up the heat on nuclear power. I do not care. I will buy land in upstate New York and sell the land to nukes. Wait, I will rent to them and make a ton a money.

JPG

Those crazy environmentalists who refuse to "drill till the last drop." On top of that they refuse to drive real cars: Hummers, Tundras, F 250s, etc. Wimps.

I also blame them for opposing the coal fire plant that will power my 5,000 sq. ft. house 50 miles from where I work. Just build that coal thing really, really far from my house so I don't have to see it, smell it, or get the mercury in my swimming pool.

They want solar panels, windmills, denser urban housing, trains, light rail, and public transportation. Communists!

If we had no environmentalists, gas prices would go down to 10 or maybe 20 cents a gallon overnight. Peak oil would go away. We could all go back to driving Hummers and F 150s. All that to protect a few reindeer that don't do anything else than walk in the Tundra and don't even drive a Tundra!

They are the new Communists, I tell you. Get rid of them and all will be fine, I tell you.

shivoysieh

I was against blighting our outdoors. That was years ago. There's a time and place for anything. Now's the time when we should drill off shore and in Alaska and anything else useful to get power. We can always stop all that in the future when we have alternative energy. Why do people have to have an outlook on anything in life that is non-changing? Just narrow-minded idiots, I guess. It all depends on IQ, and that's a sad thing.

shivoysieh7

Why do people not realize we can change and then change back or change ad infinitum? We are not limited. For instance, concerning those who say we will abuse gas again if the price comes down, don't they have enough insight and imagination to see that already we are passing laws that mandate new vehicles must get a certain mileage per gallon of gas? We could easily do away with the Hummer types just by passing laws. We are not limited, except by a stupid government. People all too often judge their views and possibilities of the future by the past. Why, I don't know.

Interesting

What about a $5 a gallon increase in gas tax by 2020, incrementing steadily until 2020? The government uses that money to subsidize infrastructure for recharging electric cars, similar to gas stations except only electricity. The fuel source for this electricity would be combined solar and wind power farms or nuclear power plants.

ted

ANWR is a frozen wasteland with no tree in sight for more than 100 miles. The actual area where oil companies want to drill is quite tiny. This eco-Nazism has got to stop. Start putting people first instead of animals. People are not equal or inferior to animals. We can drill and be good stewards of the environment. The same argument was used in the 1970s with the trans-Alaskan pipeline. It turned out that the pipeline was a boon for animals as the warmth of the hot oil actually increased the caribou population as well as other wildlife.

People first always. Stop the stupidity.

JackieS

While the Republicans are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, shouting, "Give 'em more off-shore oil leases," the Democrats are at least trying to calm the situation and talk responsibly. It proves some people panic very easily, and thus allow their thinking to be controlled. Giving away more oil leases is not the answer, and if they'd be quiet long enough, they'd be able to listen to reason.

This is a business move, pure and simple. We've been there before. Remember 1973? The oil companies controlled what was shipped to the United States and how much was refined into gas and heating oil. The oil companies are powerful, and their power was never more apparent than it was during the manufactured "oil crisis" of 1973. They controlled 90% of crude exports to world markets by controlling every important pipeline in the world.

In the early 1950's, revelations surfaced that the oil companies would pump the oil from the Middle East, then split the profits with the government of the country where the oil was produced. OPEC was formed to make people believe that the Arabian oil reserves were not owned by these non-Arabian oil companies.

A 1973 study by Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Donald Bartlett and James B. Steele revealed that while American oil companies were telling the U.S. to curtail oil consumption, through a massive advertising campaign, the five largest oil companies ( Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, Gulf, and Standard Oil of California) were selling close to two barrels overseas for every barrel (42 gallons) of oil sold here. They accused the oil companies and the federal government of creating the crisis.

In 1974, Lloyd's of London, the leading maritime insurance company in the world, said that during the three months before the embargo, 474 tankers left the Middle East, with oil for the world. During the three months at the height of the crisis, 492 tankers left those same ports. During the embargo, Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) (whose President, Thornton Bradshaw, was a member of the CFR) drivers were hauling excess fuel to storage facilities in the Mojave desert. All of this evidence points to the conclusion that there was no oil shortage in 1973.

These non-Arabian oil companies were informally called "the Seven Sisters." They control what is shipped to the United States and how much is refined into gas and heating oil. Originally the group included:

Exxon (was Standard Oil of New Jersey, then Esso)
Mobil (was Standard Oil of New York, which merged with Vacuum Oil)
Chevron (was Standard Oil of California)
Texaco
Gulf Oil (controlled by the Mellons)
Shell (Royal Dutch Petroleum)
British Petroleum (Anglo-Iranian)

Lindsey Williams, a Baptist missionary in the 1970s, said he rubbed elbows with members of the world’s power elite who boasted of detailed 30-year and 50-year plans to control the flow of oil and information. A huge quantity of crude oil and natural gas exists under Gull Island, located in the waters of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, says Williams. He cited key British Petroleum memoranda and related the statements of upper echelon oil officials who told him that Gull Island would be kept under wraps, limiting domestic supplies so Americans would someday see prices hit up to $10 a gallon at the pump.

This is not about a shortage; this is about greed. Read Thom Hartman's interview with Congressman Peter Defazio, and you will even better understand what is going on now.

Michele M.

This is a dire situation that must be addressed immediately, but not selfishly. There's far more at stake than our current lifestyles. How we respond to this crisis will determine our future, our children's future, and the future of our planet. It doesn't take much to realize how much is at stake, but if we continue to point fingers, before we know it, it will be too late. Continuing to drill for a non-renewable resource cannot be our response. It's time to move on to eco-friendly technologies that will allow all forms of life to flourish without fear and greed.

ROBERT

To all who say it would take years to make new drilling pay off, I ask, "What if we had not forbidden drilling in the first place? Would we have that oil now?" Not drilling for more oil which could be available is akin to not having drilled an additional well since oil was first discovered at Titusville, Penn. It is ludicrous to make the energy of the industrial revolution and our economy unavailable.

To those who say there is no guarantee of discovery, I say let the energy companies have the opportunity to make the investment decision, just as Russian and Brazilian companies and governments are making decisions about offshore drilling.

I believe we need a multipronged approach to the problem and that so far our politicians have been part of the problem and not the solution. We need a Manhattan Project for energy independence and it will take many approaches to solve the problem. We need more atomic power plants, transmission lines, wind farms, hydrogen development, etc. Unfortunately every environmentalist group will be against everything and for nothing except less of what we have. This will not work and is guaranteed to grind our economy to a halt. It is already happening.

We need our Congress to stay session instead of taking a summer recess. They are too busy getting reelected to deal with the nation's business. In fact, they have been so busy getting and staying in office that they have not done anything tangible on the energy front for 30 years.

We have the best government money can buy. Witness that we will spend $1 billion to elect the next President.

Martin

If our government wants to get involved in the oil business, that is fine with me. But they can't force companies to drill; they would have to nationalize the oil industry for that. Also, it costs money and energy to drill for oil. An oil company would be foolish to start drilling when prices are artificially high. The government would be best served to act proactively, not reactively. Since our government takes years to decide anything, they need to start planning not for today, but for 10 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now. Will we be here 500 years from now? Maybe we should save some energy for then?

Humberto

You can go back and forth forever. The truth is our representatives in Washington are making decisions with their pockets or with their party, not with their reason and their hearts. I say no more lobbyists in Washington. And not one soul in Congress for more than eight years. That would have kept oil companies and environmentalists out of their hearts and out of their pockets. Same is true for health care. We need leaders. Strong leaders.

Scott

After Bush, let's end the debate once and for all. In the spirit of Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Shenandoah, and Yellowstone, let's protect what is irreplaceable. Someone, please, start a movement for permanent protection in the form of the new Arctic Wildlife National Park.

Richie

I am for drilling anywhere oil is to be found, off shore, With the technology we have today, it will be no problem to drill in ANWR or off shore.

People have to get to work and feed their families, and it can't be done on $4.25 a gallon gas and going higher in the future. The rich can pay $10 a gallon, but the average working people are struggling now paying $4.25.

Off the continental shelf oil can be out of the ground in two years while solar and wind will take 10 or more years. Drill, drill, drill.

John

The argument to put people first has been used too long and too loosely. People historically have not been good stewards of the environment. People have historically been good at apathy toward politics and letting their elected officials get away (probably quite literally) with murder. People historically don't like to admit they're wrong and made a mistake. People are very good at NIMBY-ism. We Americans want our cake and expect that we are entitled to eat it, too, and are resistant to anything that rhymes with conservation, reduce, responsibility, change, etc. Expect a dollar for a dime's worth of work (way to go, New York City and Mafia). Expect answers from the experts, but close our ears when they tell us something we don't like, or empower the government to censor as they see fit. Take the easy way as opposed to the correct or (socially, environmentally, ethically, morally) responsible way.

People are so quick to throw stones at the "eco-Nazis" as so eloquently stated above, but without them, we would all be covered in a smog akin to Beijing's.

Take a walk, ride a bike, combine trips, use compact fluorescents, save up and buy a good quality product rather than $10 ($100?) throwaways, use fewer chemicals, do something positive, and quit bitching about how your style has been cramped. Change your style.

For those of you just trying to get by, and truly and honestly the victims of circumstance not of your own creation, my heart goes out to you.

Samantha

Well, of course China and India aren't going to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, Mr. Bartmann. They are too busy producing all the disgusting products full of chemicals and petroleum we buy every day for ridiculously low prices. Let's take a look at the bigger picture here. No one wants to tell China to do anything for fear of upsetting the constant flow of cheap crap we can't seem to get enough of over here. Perhaps if we cared a little more about how and where things were made and forced our governments to enact stronger policies for ingredients and factory conditions with the products imported, then there wouldn't be such a disgusting waste of fossil fuels in the East. If we really look at a per person basis of carbon dioxide emissions, a citizen of China produces only 2.7 tons per person, compared to Americans at 20 tons. It seems a little twisted to place the blame on the East. They live in drastically worse conditions than we do, producing our dirt cheap products that we consume at an alarming rate.

As for nuclear power: It all seems just far too easy to switch, doesn't it? Yes, there have been leaps and bounds in the nuclear industry, but it still doesn't change the fact that it has to be transported to safe disposal sites. Last time I checked, transporting anything has its risks of accidents. Can we afford that kind of accident? Furthermore, is burying it in sealed containers underground really that smart? I realize that the radiation isn't too much of an issue, but we're running out of room for our garbage. Let alone large containers of nuclear waste.

I think we are smarter than this. We can be cleaner than this. And we don't need as much as we've been taking. Twenty tons of C02 per person in America just seems like too much to me. Changing the way we live isn't that hard, so why are we so hell bent on lowering gas prices? Let's get hell bent on better public transportation, more efficient homes, healthier communities, riding bikes.

I agree that there are some radical environmental groups that seem to be unwilling to compromise anything, but to lump them together as being one of the main reasons gas prices are high is just plain ignorant. Mr. Bartmann, are decent caring citizens who want a healthy world for their children really the issue here?

Matt Ilgner

Just go to video.google.com and search for a 75-minute documentary called The Energy Non-Crisis. Very interesting.

Tom Bell

Francis, "Ruin the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge"? Two words come to mind to describe your point: bovine byproducts.

Look at a map of the ANWR and see where the proposed drilling site is. It's not in the "beautiful terrain"--it's near the shoreline on the mud flat outflow, much if not nearly identical with the Prudhoe Bay terrain. The proposed drilling site won't damage the ANWR or detract from the scenic beauty at all. And because it's located in geography that's very similar to Prudehoe Bay's, it's very likely that it's going to produce results, not dry holes. Perhaps most important, the total area that is being discussed is less than one tenth of one percent of the entire refuge. Your "tree hugger" mentality is apparent, and isn't appropriate to the issue at hand.

reggie cetoute

This whole debate isn't much of a debate when all parties involved have some hidden agenda. I am for people first, not animals, but at the same time I think we can't just overdo it. People want change, because as human beings, we like things easy. Making things complicated just causes anger. In some cases, alternative energy sources are economically viable as they aren't as cheap or productive as the thing they are meant to replace. Using biofuels will starve most of the world's population. We expect poor nations to spend a lot of money to be environmentally friendly rather than bringing their people out of poverty. What is to come is unavoidable. We should fight rather than prevent or just weather through it.

Panthael

Frances Beinecke correctly argues that leasing has increased recently and that oil companies are strapped with working through the opportunities they already have on the table.

However, I do not believe these facts are necessarily arguments against opening up more areas for drilling. Opening up new areas will give oil companies more opportunities to look for oil and gas. Many of these opportunities may include opportunities that are less risky, less capitally intensive, and more profitable. As a result, the price of bringing oil and gas to market could be reduced, which according to free market principles, should allow one oil company to take a competitive advantage over its competitors and foreign sources, and sell its oil more cheaply to the market, reducing price.

nandlal kanjibhai pancholi

The solution to the problem lies in strict enforcement of sustainable growth measures where only public transport will exist in every country and even a Prime Minister will go to his office in a public transport bus. The use of helicopters and jet planes and aircraft shall be strictly proscribed for politicians and government functionaries and private parties, but this facility shall exist for everyone as an emergency mode of transport. If this option is not acceptable, we have to compulsorily develop alternative non-polluting sources of energy using solar energy and vehicles driven by electricity,solar energy or thermodynamics. Considering its sinister side effects on environment, fossil fuel cannot be used extravagantly, and the fossil fuel era cannot be prolonged any further. The use of bicycles and horses and camels should be encouraged. Horse-driven carriages should be brought back worldwide in cities and villages. In the agricultural sector, the use of bullock carts should be resurrected with upgraded technology and increased utility, minimizing the use of tractors. Windmill technology should be made ubiquitous and should be increasingly used as a non-polluting source of energy.

James

Do we need to find a way to sever our dependence on foreign oil? Yes. Does it have to happen as soon as possible? Yes. Does it have to happen in two weeks? No. The truth of the matter is that gas is still a great deal. I mean, seriously, it's all in how you look at it. I drive a Mercury Mountaineer, which I absolutely enjoy to the point of tears. It gets 12 mpg in the city (give or take a little) -- this is on the low end for fuel economy, agreed? Okay, well, would you walk 12 miles for $4? $5? $6? How about $12 per gallon, an average of a dollar per mile? Of course you wouldn't. Most of us are both too busy and far too lazy to waste the time and energy. As far as the ecological concerns about drilling in America, if it puts cheaper gas in my SUV while we're figuring out alternatives, they can drill right through the Alaskan Grizzly Bear’s head for all I care. We have pictures to remember them by, and the possibility of extinction is just another fact to face when you're dealing with Mother Nature.

Jim Quilici

I watched the Republican delegates chant "drill baby drill" during Rudy Guliani's speech at the Republican Convention. The Republican party appears to be misguided and misinformed. Our present appetite for oil is too large, and drilling off the coastlines and north slope of Alaska will simply put a minor dent in our oil imports from the Middle East. Plus, it doesn't address the problem with CO2 emissions. A nationwide transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles will have a much larger impact in reducing greenhouse gases and reducing our reliance on Middle East oil. If we are going to make any modifications to our coastlines and open lands, then we should be pursuing electricity generated from wind, wave, and solar power. These solutions are much more efficient, and the environmental impact is minor compared to energy solutions based on fossil fuels.

resource guy

For those of you who disagree with Bill Bartmann, go make your argument in Brazil. They will laugh you out of the country--with truth derived strictly from the facts of drilling results at three massive discoveries offshore. That is a lot more powerful than USGS-MMS models of offshore drilling potential based on no data or fragmented old data at best. Basically, the truth in this case and statistical richness for modeling comes from drilling data and risk taking.

Susie

According to New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/01/business/01cnd-exxon.html) about Exxon-Mobil: "The company reported Friday that it beat its own record for the highest profits ever recorded by any company, with net income rising 3 percent to $40.6 billion, thanks to surging oil prices. The company's sales, more than $404 billion, exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries."

Drilling myths debunked, according to Greenpeace: (http://members.greenpeace.org/blog/staff_gw/2008/08/13/drilling_myths_debunked). Drilling will not lower gas prices because, as the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell recently said, "easy-to-produce oil and gas [will] likely peak in the next 10 years." Drilling costs will skyrocket as we tap these harder-to-reach oil fields, offsetting any possible benefit of increased oil production, meaning that drilling the OCS will have a thoroughly negligible impact on gas prices no matter when we start drilling."

The only real way out of this mess we're in is to invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Instead of making bogus claims about drilling the OCS, our federal legislators should be passing tax credits and other incentives for investment in renewable energy. Unfortunately, as Thomas Friedman recently pointed out in a scathing op-ed, the Senate has failed on eight separate occasions to renew tax credits for solar and wind investment that are set to expire in December. This has scared off many potential investors in America and abroad.

Our "leaders" want us to open more land to drilling by oil companies that are already making a killing, but they can't muster the political will to give tax credits to the folks who are working to implement real solutions. It's ridiculous.

TomasC

Here is an interesting point of view: Is the work of environmentalists justifiable? Is it okay to harm one thing, but to prevent damages on the other one? Is utilitarian behavior acceptable? Here, we probably won't find a clear answer, because it depends on everybody's values.

Is it okay to kill one beaver to save 10 trees?

Resourceguy

The end to this debate is coming faster than you think. It's not about oil running out or the environment changing faster than previously thought. It's that federal and state subsidies for all the bad ideas of alternative energy have just run dry. O's recent payout for imported alternative energy equipment is the last gasp--welcome to California and Michigan finances. The next versions of state and federal budgets will prove that point. Jimmy Carter Energy Dream Time v2.0 is over and you don't even see it. The policy disaster of liberals is unsustainable and we are on track to prove that with new the normal and Michigan-style decline in lifestyle and budget reality. Also, the tipping point is here and it ain't climate--it turned out to be leadership after all. And to add to Steve's list, the U.S. public has been effectively shielded from the fact that Canadians have heavily developed their North Slope just east of ANWAR and the Russians are moving that way too. Go look at the maps of pipelines and oil fields on the Canadian side for yourself. I love it how liberal Canada has been depicted as caring while digging up Alberta and drilling the North Slope--more excellent manipulation by PR pros and blame it on Bush strategies.

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