Monday, July 14, 2008

the truth about Oil

Rep. Rob Bishop decided to let out his old partisan ways (he was, after all, speaker of the Utah House before he was the 1st District's congressman) on the issue of high gas prices.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, led a GOP attack Thursday against Democratic House leaders, complaining they are refusing to address high oil costs while they piddle instead with minor bills this election year.
"We're not dealing with the real issues that affect people," Bishop told the House. "We're dealing with the small stuff, the trivialities. ... This is like junk food. It's like cotton candy. It's there. It's fluffy. It's airy. But it is not filling. It has no fiber. It gives the illusion of activity, but in essence we're dealing with a cotton-candy agenda."

Bishop led the Republican attack as the House debated a bill to designate a national historic trail from Rhode Island to Yorktown, Va., marking the path taken by George Washington and the French Army during the Revolutionary War.
On message even if off-topic. The current policy prescription for high gas prices by DC Republicans is
  1. Drill in ANWR
  2. Drill offshore CA and FL
  3. Have a gas tax holiday
  4. Create a myth that China and/or Cuba is drilling in the Caribbean

First, the portion of Alaska's North Slope currently part of the wildlife refuge does contain some oil to be sure, but not that much--about 200 days worth. Even supporters note that it would take 5 to 10 years to get the oil flowing to America. So this would have zero impact on today's prices, which look as far out as 6 months.

Second, the same problems occur offshore drilling as with ANWR. High cost of recovery, risk of spilling, long time frame to get the oil out, and relatively small amounts of oil and natural gas.

Third, a gas tax holiday will not lower gas prices, they will only serve to increase oil company profits and reduce money available to build/repair roads.

Fourth, China is not drilling off the coast of Cuba, no matter how many members of Congress repeat the claim. Even VP Dick Cheney admitted that his earlier claim was false.

Not that the Democrats' are much better. Their plans might promise long-term solutions (like switching to solar and wind power, reducing consumption, etc.) but offer little in the way of fixing the problem now. Imaginary taxes, regulations and investigations are not going to lower the price of gas that much. Heck, the Democrats can't even pass this year's budget, how are they going to get those three things through Congress?

The real answer is that not much can be done right away. The oil companies stopped building and even went to so far as to sell or shut down as many refineries as possible to set up this whole "bottleneck". Now to be fair, some of the blame falls on NIMBY--people that didn't want an oil refinery near their home. And until Americans driving habits--including the type of car they drive--change, our demand will continue to rise. Another part of the problem is out of our control: China and India's explosive growth has lead to more people with more money, meaning more oil consumption (and more pollution). But no politican can pass up a chance to promise something that people want, or to blame the oposition for the problem.

No comments: