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The US Offshore Drilling Argument: The Debate Between “Starting Now” and “Waiting a While”

Gail Tverberg, The Oil Drum
Offshore drilling is again in the news, with many saying we shouldn’t drill now. Drilling will take more than 10 years for most of the oil in question. I believe that we need to start the process now, partly because the expected impact of peak oil will make drilling in future years much more difficult, and partly because technical advances within the petroleum industry have helped overcome some previous objections to drilling.

Why We Should Start Now
If legislation is passed to permit drilling in areas which have previously been off limits, it will be at least 7 to 10 years before we can expect new production (Transcript 15:43). If new production is far from existing pipelines, as is often the case, new production is likely to be at least 10 years away. This long time period is required because of the many steps involved.

In this post, I will first tell you the reasons why I think we should start this long process now. After that, I will answer some of the objections I am aware of.

Necessary resources available
How much do we really have?
Better use of existing pipeline systems
Better energy return on investment (EROI)
Help cushion the downslope
Protect (very partially) against the loss of imports

These are my responses to some of the reasons I have seen for not drilling.
Spoil the view
Oil spills
Save it for our grandchildren
Nothing in it for the local economy
False promises by politicians
We need to increase auto mileage standards first
We need to learn to live without oil
Not enough oil to make a difference
Won’t help prices
Drilling would damage the wilderness
Prevent global warming
(30 June 2008)
Gail puts the issues clearly. Agree with here or not, she performs a valuable service by presenting the pros and cons, in a way that reasonable discussion can follow. She points out in an email, “This is the unpopular side of the issue, from the point of view of most peak oil people.” -BA

Three Points On ANWR

Ronald R. Cooke, The Cultural Economist
There has been much discussion – mostly acerbic, ignorant and deceptive – about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Without taking sides, I would like to point out three facts everyone is missing:

* In order to support America’s economy, we are going to need every barrel we can pump during our transition to other fuels (and life styles). The less oil we have, the higher the rate of inflation, the higher the rate of unemployment, and the worse our recession will be for all Americans. If you would like to understand why, then pick up a copy of my book “Oil, Jihad and Destiny”. It’s all there.

* Curtailing oil production will increase air pollution. America depends on oil to keep warm in winter. Heating oil, propane, and kerosene are cleaner burning than coal. If these fuels are unavailable, or unaffordable, then families are going to burn waste, wood and coal to stay warm – dirty or not. This – by the way – is already happening.

* Drilling in places like ANWR is just the tip of the iceberg (a pun). The USGS believes 25% of the world’s remaining oil is under Arctic ice (soon to be the Arctic sea). Russia and Canada are already sparring over rights to drill. If we are concerned about the environment, it should be understood the Russians have a miserable environmental record. If we do not claim it first, and they drill, it will be disastrous for the environment because they are just not going to care. The point is, liberal environmentalists are NOT going to stop exploration for oil in the Arctic. It’s just a matter of who does the drilling. If America doesn’t, then some other nation will get the oil – dirty or not.

It’s nice to be concerned about the caribou and a polar bear. But don’t you believe it is also important to be concerned about human welfare? Is there a way to inject a dose of reality into the ANWR debate?
(30 June 2008)