By Jacqueline Savitz, Vice President for North America at Oceana
The “drill, baby, drill” chant may not be heard as often as it was a few years ago, but the sentiment is still very much alive in Washington. As if the Gulf of Mexico BP spill never even happened, bills that would open up new areas to offshore drilling and undercut government oversight have passed through the House this year. After all, increased domestic production would decrease gasoline prices and provide relief to squeezed families. Or so they say.
But that’s just not the case according to a recent report from the Energy Security Leadership Council, which is part of the organization Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) which includes retired four-star generals and admirals as well as industry leaders. The report joins a growing list of publications that refute the notion that the United States can drill its way to energy independence and free itself from the myriad problems that come from oil consumption and offshore drilling.
These leaders argue that energy security is not just about becoming independent from foreign oil, as that still ignores our continued vulnerability to high and volatile oil prices. Even if the U.S. were able to produce 100 percent of its own oil, we would still not have control over prices for one simple reason: “oil prices are determined in a global market.” As a result, a nation’s vulnerability to high or volatile oil prices isn’t affected by what fraction of oil it imports. All that matters is how much oil that nation consumes. Or, as the report puts it, “rising domestic oil production [in the U.S.] will not achieve a long-term domestic price advantage in oil.”
Based on this information, it’s clear that the key to unlocking our nation’s energy security isn’t increased domestic production, but rather decreased domestic consumption. Or, again in the words of the report, “the long-term goal of energy security policy must be to break petroleum’s stranglehold on the transportation sector.” Doing so will not be easy by any means, but plenty of options exist that can reduce our nation’s dependence on oil.
One powerful tool is increasing the nation’s fuel economy standards, which the Council calls the “most important energy security accomplishment in decades.” Continuing to strengthen the fuel efficiency of the nation’s fleet of passenger and freight vehicles would greatly reduce our nation’s oil consumption in the coming decades. The report also highlights the promise of hybrid and full electric vehicles in reducing oil consumption, as they depend on electricity rather than liquid fuel for energy.
In the midst of political frenzy over high gasoline prices, this report provides a much-needed objective and non-partisan reminder of a very simple fact: the U.S. cannot drill its way to energy security. If we truly want to protect ourselves from volatile oil prices and high gasoline prices, we need to invest in alternatives like electric vehicles and increased fuel efficiency – “drill, baby, drill” just won’t cut it.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.
image: Ed Schiul via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)