Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Drill Here, Drill Now… With What?

For many reasons, I am not going to mention my support for any particular candidate in this election, and I am going to stick to discussing issues. Recently, there have been calls in this election to increase the amount of off shore oil drilling, to lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

I have a few questions I want to ask about this plan…

1) Where will the additional oil rigs come from?

I used to live on Galveston Island, where the harbor there does a lot of work repairing and refurbishing oil rigs. Just repairing an oil rig can take months, it takes 2-3 years to build a small, shallow water jack-up rig, and it takes from 3-5 years to build a semi or deep water rig. In the past few years, several of the shipyards on the gulf coast have closed, so there is not a lot of space in which to build them. Much of that same space needs to be used to repair and maintain the oil rigs we currently have… especially if we take more storm damage. I doubt you could find rigs that are not being used that are not currently being repaired anywhere in the world, unless they are so old they are of little use anyway.

2) Where will the additional refining capacity come from?

It is true that it has been decades since a new refinery has been built, but over these years refining capacity has increased at the refineries we do have. However, we have about reached the end of how much we can increase capacity at these already existing refineries. At this same time, the oil that we are now drawing from many of our domestic oil sources is more difficult to refine than much of the oil we used to drill, thereby increasing the time it takes to refine and reducing capacity at these same refineries. Add to that how much of our refining capacity lies in areas threatened by hurricanes, and we have a rather precarious situation. There is no excess refining capacity, there is no easy or quick way to increase capacity, and the capacity we have is regularly threatened by natural disaster. Add to that how few areas of this nation are willing to have a refinery in their own backyard (like we did in Galveston) and we face a situation where it is unlikely new refineries will be built anytime soon.

3) Why must the government help drill more now?

You keep hearing that energy prices are too high. Are they? Or were they too low before? What we are seeing is what Republicans should love to see… we are seeing market forces at work. As gasoline prices rise, the market then turns its attention to other alternatives. We see consumers correcting the markets focus on large vehicles with low miles per gallon, and the increase in small energy efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. We see the market reacting to an increase in viability of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar. We see the market taking a closer look at the viability of nuclear power.

It amazes me that how fast those who tout the importance of allowing market forces to work retreat from that position and call for government intervention when those same market forces turn against the interests of their corporate and political patrons.

Which brings us back to the real reason behind this debate… politics. There is not an energy crisis occurring in this country. Let me say that again… there is not an energy crisis occurring in this country. There is an energy correction happening before our eyes.

Corrections can be painful, but in the end they leave us in a stronger position. This correction can leave us with a more diversified and rational energy position, in which it becomes profitable to be green. This correction can leave us with a diversified energy position that does not make us dependant upon nations such as Iran and Venezuela for our energy. This correction will encourage us to change our patterns and use of energy, to adapt our lives to this new energy reality.

Does the government have a role to play in this shift? Absolutely… but it is not in bailing out the current energy structure of this nation. The government’s responsibility is in providing a safety net to assist Americans on the lowest economic rungs in this time of change and adaptation… to assist those who need it most, not who most need to change and adapt.

There may also be a place for the government to act, in creating the conditions to combine the need to redesign our national energy portfolio in light of our other commitments to the environment and to lessening our dependence upon foreign nations for our energy supply. But the last thing the government needs to do is to support the fortunes of those who created this set of problems in the first place.

Yours in Faith,


One Thought on “Drill Here, Drill Now… With What?

  1. Very well said! 🙂

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