Thursday, June 19, 2008

Offshore Drilling: Yes or No?

With gasoline prices seemingly reaching new highs every day, the call is getting louder for drilling of oil off the shores of the US coastline.

Of course, the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) don’t want drilling off the shore where they believe they can actually see it. The Tree Huggers believe that it could damage the environment. Some think that it only helps the oil companies increase their profits. There are others who have grown weary of the US and the world being dependent on the whims of OPEC. There are conspiracy theorists who think that the U.S. has held off on increasing drilling on its own turf because they think the U.S. hopes that OPEC will sometime run out of oil, and when that happens, we'll still have ours and be top dog in the world of oil.

Me? I think the issue of drilling offshore may be a moot point if we don’t get more refineries to process the crude. Several reports say that the US has access to plenty of crude oil, both on its own turf and from outside suppliers, but there just aren’t enough refineries to move the oil through the processing pipeline. There is also the issue with the large number of various gasoline blends that are produced in the US to cover individual state emissions regulations, weather variations (winter blends vs. summer blends), and grades of gas (regular to premium).

Here’s what I think. The US should immediately consolidate and reduce the number of blends used across the country and settle on a select few that will handle most cars and also provide proper emission standards. For example, if California gas has the most stringent emissions regulations, then why don’t we all use that blend of gas? If a car will run on regular or premium, why exactly do we need the middle octane gas? Or, why don’t we just all run on premium? By only producing one octane level for gasoline, the current refineries could operate more efficiently and could increase their capacity. As far as weather related gas blends, well, I don’t understand the dynamics of how gasoline must be modified to handle all climates, but I would have to think there is a way to reduce the number of blends there as well. If not, possibly making changes in other gasoline standards would be enough to help increase refinery capacity.

If these changes are not enough and more refineries are needed, then they should be built. I know the NIMBYs would not like that. But something has to give if we expect the gasoline supply to stay stable and prices to stop the upward spiral, and if we have to continue to drive gas-fueled vehicles.

While I would not want someone drilling for oil on Lake Erie – I live only a few miles from its shore – I would accept it if it meant that we could get off foreign oil dependency. I also would be all for wind turbines on the Lake, which is a side issue discussed off an on in the Lake Erie and Great Lakes region. And I also think that while we need to do all we can to protect our fragile environment, I would be open to offshore drilling as a whole if it was done in a highly controlled manner with all safety precautions in place. Same for drilling in Alaska.

But it goes without saying that ALL these points would be moot if we could find ways to power our cars, and our homes, and our power plants with energy that is not based on fossil fuels. This discussion has been going on since the 1970s and the oil crisis of that time (I remember it well) and it seems that in over 30 years we’ve made little progress.

With the upcoming presidential election, all eyes will be on Barack Obama and John McCain and how they will approach the subject of gasoline prices, offshore drilling, and renewable energy sources. But we shouldn’t let it end with the election – we should expect results. After all, I don’t want to wait another 30+ years for a viable solution.

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

1 comment:

Miss Kitty Fantastico said...

Oh my goodness, you remember those long lines? I tell my boys that and it's so surreal to them. Yet here we are again being terrorized by the oil companies. The enemy is at our doorstep.

Your suggestions are sound. Too bad we can't take care of business. Sometime I think that those in power spend too much time thinking and pondering and not much time executing.

NIMBY reminds me of the Carlin routine about building prisons.

Great observations.