This week we saw the debate over solar tax credits bring into focus support of off shore drilling for oil versus support of clean energy technologies.
But will offshore drilling really bring the price of gas down? Time Magazine weighed in on this question in its piece, “Will More Drilling Mean Cheaper Gas?”
“Even if tomorrow we opened up every square mile of the outer continental shelf to offshore rigs, even if we drilled the entire state of Alaska and pulled new refineries out of thin air, the impact on gas prices would be minimal and delayed at best. A 2004 study by the government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would trim the price of gas by 3.5 cents a gallon by 2027. (If oil prices continue to skyrocket, the savings would be greater, but not by much.) Opening up offshore areas to oil exploration — currently all coastal areas save a section of the Gulf of Mexico are off-limits, thanks to a congressional ban enacted in 1982 and supplemented by an executive order from the first President Bush — might cut the price of gas by 3 to 4 cents a gallon at most, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And the relief at the pump, such as it is, wouldn’t be immediate — it would take several years, at least, for the oil to begin to flow, which is time enough for increased demand from China, India and the rest of the world to outpace those relatively meager savings. “Right now the price of oil is set on the global market,” says Kevin Lindemer, executive managing director of the energy markets group for the research firm Global Insight. President Bush’s move “would not have an impact.”
The reason is simple: the U.S. has an estimated 3% of global petroleum reserves but consumes 24% of the world’s oil.