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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

(Updated) Jim O'Donnell Guest Blog: The Right-Wing Offshore Drilling Scam

Update: Also see New Mexico FBIHOP's post that expands on this post by discussing this issue in terms of the views being expressed by New Mexico's Congressional delegation.

We're very pleased to have another insightful guest blog from Jim O'Donnell, author and former coordinator of the Coalition for the Valle Vidal in northern New Mexico:

Offshoredrill2Over the past eight years, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%. Have you seen your gasoline costs drop? How about your electricity costs? Propane? Natural gas? Uh ... no.

Don’t be fooled, amigos. All this talk about offshore oil drilling and the price of gas and the pump is a bunch of horse manure. In fact, the Republican Party is colluding with the oil and gas industry to drive up the price of energy.

This is criminal.

The oil and gas industry, buoyed by their Right-Wing minions are on a coordinated and well-thought out mission to end the twenty-six year old moratorium on off-shore oil and gas drilling. The goal?  Increase corporate profit at your expense.

First of all, there is no “ban” on drilling. In reality, there is a moratorium on drilling in certain coastal areas. Other areas are not only open to drilling but leases and drilling permits have already been issued. And they are not being drilled.

In fact, only 17% of the leased areas are in production. So, with about 33 million acres of offshore areas already available to drill and not being drilled, why does the oil and gas industry need to have access to still more? The fact is that tens of BILLIONS of barrels of oil off the coast of the United States are currently available for drilling ... and industry is not drilling it. It has been estimated by the Energy Information Administration that if all of those currently inactive leases were drilled, the USA would produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas EVERY DAY, accounting for a doubling of US oil production and a 75% increase in US natural gas production. The Minerals Management Service tells us that about 80% of fossil fuels available in offshore are currently available for development.

This is the story throughout the country. All told (onshore and offshore), 68 million acres are leased and sitting idle. Over 10,000 permits are currently 'stockpiled' by industry. But still they want more.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican last week blocked debate of a bill that would have offered about $17.7 billion in tax incentives for consumers to build renewable energy sources.  Nice.

What's going on here is yet another cynical attempt by the GOP and the oil and gas robber barons to increase and assure huge industry profits at the expense of the American people.

These companies don’t want to drill these areas. They want to hold them as assets to limit the amount of oil and gas on the market so that prices rise still further - and they make more money. They want to hold on to these areas so that they can drill them ten or fifteen years from now when oil is at $300 a barrel and make an even bigger fortune. 

This is criminal.

John McCain, George W. Bush and the Republican Party don’t give a damn about high energy prices. In fact, they are colluding with the oil and gas industry and Wall Street traders to deliberately drive up prices and increase profits while you and I suffer.

Don’t be fooled.

This is a guest blog by Jim O’Donnell, who is the former coordinator of the Coalition for the Valle Vidal. He is also the author of "Notes for the Aurora Society," due out later this summer. He writes, walks and marvels from northern New Mexico.

Guest blogs provide our readers with an opportunity to express their opinions on pertinent political issues. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

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June 18, 2008 at 04:26 PM in Energy, Environment, Guest Blogger | Permalink


You really nailed it. I wish all Americans knew these facts but unfortunately the TV media especially likes to ignore inconvenient facts like the ones you give.

I'm going to pass this along to my family and friends around the country. We have to get the word out.

Posted by: greentomorrow | Jun 18, 2008 5:22:25 PM

So I take it the author favors more drilling. Right? Isn't he implying he wants to see all existing leases maxed out by increasing the drilling off our coasts? Good for him. We need more oil and gas...and more solar, wind, and nuclear. And it follows logically that Jim should also have no objection to exploring other deep water areas to tap what could be 10 years of energy for the entire nation, energy that can keep us going as we transition out of hydrocarbons to the next energy paradigm, whatever that may be.

Posted by: Jim Scarantino | Jun 18, 2008 10:30:08 PM

Way to go, Mr. Scarantino. Strawmen and Red Herrings. You might instead want to engage in an honest discussion.

Posted by: O'Donnell | Jun 19, 2008 7:38:50 AM

I think it's clear the author is calling attention to the fact that the big oil companies and their cronies are dishonest about the facts and use deception and scare tactics to try and grab more capital and tax breaks. These are the same tactics they use on every issue because their goal is always the same - enriching themselves and their friends and to hell with any other considerations.

We don't have time for a long "transition." Humans have to deal with the fact that we can no longer live in the unsustainable way we are living or the consequences will be dire. Pretending we can go on as we are for decades is illogical and dangerous.

Drilling for more poison to keep the poison burning going after it's been shown that doing so will endanger our entire planet is plain crazy talk. The sooner people get this through their heads the better off we will be. Anything else is just a fairy tale.

Start the ball rolling by insisting that cities require all businesses and highrises to turn off all their lights after the end of the work day. There are a gazillion ways to cut down on energy use that is wasteful and unnecessary.

The people who want to drill for more oil at this point remind me of people who wanted to hang onto the whale oil business when better sources of energy came into play. We are at another crossroads and we need to move forward, not cling to what was and what's killing us and the natural world.

Posted by: roadrunner | Jun 19, 2008 9:08:51 AM

Here are more facts that refute what Jim Scarantino and other apologists for the oil lobby are saying:

Wilderness Society Fact Sheet

In fact there's been an explosion of drilling the West for the past 7 years under Bush and prices have skyrocketed.

Hey Jim, why don't you look at the role of international oil speculators if you want to see what's driving costs up way faster than demand is going up.

Posted by: Kossian | Jun 19, 2008 10:37:41 AM

You are perpetuating a fraud claiming that 4.8 million barrels of additional oil can be produced from the 68 million acres of non-producing leases. The 4.8 million figure is completely bogus because the method to derive the amount is a total fraud.

The fraud was created by the House Committee on Natural Resources, with their June 2008 special report, which was released 18 June 2008. The report provides neither data.or method. I had been trying for 10 weeks to obtain the method. On the rare occasion when someone at CNR would answer the telephone, I was shuffled off to someone else resulting in voice mail and never a return call. Previous attempts through Rahall's office were always back to the CNR switchboard. This time I told Rahall's district staffer I had been trying for 10 weeks and that I watched Rahall on CSPAN talk about this great openness that now exists.

The confirmation as to the CNR method was from Katherine Romans, Policy Section, House Committee on Natural Resources. The confirmation started with a 25 September 2008 telephone call to her that was made via Rahall's district office. I finally came up with the method on my own and Ms Romans confirmed that I was correct in her 26 Sepember 2008 email to me, which is below
The Method
- created a percentage of non-producing acreage to producing acreage for the two lease types, onshore and offshore
- multiplied each percentage by the amount of daily production from each of the two lease types that produce oil
- added the two numbers together

The method is fraud for no one in oil and gas or the government agencies that provide production estimates to the government (US Geological Survey, Energy Information Administration, Minerals Management Service) would ever use such a method. Production estimates are based on estimated reserves, which Mr Feldgus did not use. Production estimates are always given with a low, mean and high amounts, which reflects the uncertainty yet Mr Feldgus issued a single number, which denotes certainty. Production estimates are uncertain because the amount of oil is uncertain and is reflected in reserves being comprised also of three amounts of low, mean and high. The difference between high and low are in the billions of barrels. As a professional staffer who deals with energy matter, Mr Feldgus knows how production estimates are made and why so for him use the method that he did is fraud and he knows it.

The amount and method was the creation of Steve Fledgus, staffer on the CNR subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources. On the afternoon of 2 September 2008, Debroah (subcommittee Energy and Minerals) confirmed to me, by telephone, that the data came from Materials Management Service but did not say what the data was. I called back the same afternoon to the subcommittee and spoke to one of the other two subcommittee female staffers who said Steve Feldgus did the work. I left a voice mail twice with Mr Feldgus for the method but did not return my telephone call.

America can not continue using oil as we have and we can not produce enough oil to get us to energy independance. New sources of energy are needed as well as increased efficiencies. But oil and gas will still be the dominate sources even in 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration and even the Wilderness Society.

Though I live in Houston, I do not work in oil and gas and I am not an operative for any group. I am one citizen who delved deeply into the condition of our nation's oil and gas.

Partisan politics is the way the system works because there are different views on issues but that does not give anyone in Congress the right to lie and perpetrate a fraud to further any cause.

Posted by: Charles Moore | Oct 29, 2008 4:09:31 PM

Thanks for sharing your opinion, but I don't really think it changes anything. What you are offering are quibbles with the major fact that we cannot go on as we have and that the oil companies have much more to drill before they need to receive more leases. We must change, not do better digging the poison.

Posted by: Roger | Oct 29, 2008 4:39:55 PM