"The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might."
—Mark Twain, 1867
Mark Twain must have known about Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and their gang of petro-conservatives. These congressmen have spent the last two months vigorously bellowing that oil and gasoline prices would be lower if congressional leaders would support their efforts to drill for oil in the protected Outer Continental Shelf. A just leaked memo reveals their plans to hold a Capitol rally on Wednesday July 23 to continue the push for more oil drilling while paying lip service to the efficiency and renewable energy measures the leaders consistently voted against.
Their relentless pleas for more drilling disregard all known facts about the amount of oil in the OCS, the time it takes to produce it, and the minimal effect it will have on world oil markets. The Department of Energy definitively said that, “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.” Yet these leaders continue to insist that drilling in 20 years will reduce gasoline prices today. House Minority Leader Boehner claimed that “We have to produce more supply if we’re going to bring down the price.”
These leaders actually vote against more drilling on existing land to increase supply while they clamor for drilling on new land to increase supply and lower gas prices. On July 17, Adam Putnam (R-FL), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Boehner, and Blunt, voted against more offshore oil drilling. They opposed the Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act, which would have required oil companies that hold leases on public lands or offshore to develop the oil and gas from these areas, or return the leases. They were joined in opposition by 158 other Republicans and 11 Democrats.
Their next gambit will happen at a rally tomorrow, when “all House Republicans [will] assemble on the West Front Steps at approximately 1pm to unveil our legislation and publicly demand the up-or-down vote the American people deserve.”
They plan to introduce their so-called “all of the above” legislation that purports to increase oil production while reducing oil use. In fact, this bill is really “none of the above” because the drilling measures would not produce one-tenth the oil advertised. And the efficiency and renewable proposals have been opposed by most House Republicans every time they were voted on.
If Boehner, Blunt, Putnam, and Cantor really wanted to dramatically decrease oil and gasoline prices now, they would support the release of a small amount of oil from the 98 percent full Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Both President Bushes did release some oil from the reserve, and prices dropped immediately—and stayed lower. They would also support prompt extension of tax incentives for efficiency, wind and solar power, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles—measures they voted against repeatedly during the past 18 months.
Hopefully, the American people and the media will see through Boehner and company’s “outrageous lies” even though they will be told again with all their might.
Memo Claim: “The legislation will … Open our deep water ocean resources, which will provide an additional 3 million barrels of oil per day.”
Truth: The Energy Information Administration determined that drilling for oil in the entire Outer Continental Shelf for “the lower 48 OCS, annual crude oil production in 2030 is projected to be 7 percent higher—2.4 million barrels per day in the OCS access case compared with 2.2 million barrels per day in the reference case.” In other words, the total difference is only 200,000 barrels per day—less than 10 percent of the minority leadership’s claim. If Alaska is included, the total difference peaks at “3 percent higher,” or 270,000 additional barrels per day in 2030.
This same study determined that there are 41 billion barrels already “available for leasing and development.” There are only 18 billion barrels that are unavailable. Seventy percent of the offshore oil in the lower 48 OCS is already available.
What’s more, California is highly unlikely to ever allow drilling of its coasts. This would remove approximately 9 of the 18 billion barrels of oil from future production.
Memo Claim: “The legislation will … Open the Arctic coastal plain, which will provide an additional 1 million barrels of oil per day.”
Truth: The Energy Information Administration determined in May 2008 that, “In the mean ANWR oil resource case, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR reaches 780,000 barrels per day in 2027.” The mean case reflects “a 1-in-2 chance of there being oil resources at least equal to the size of that estimate.”
The GOP assertion that there would be 1 million barrels of oil per day “is based on the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] 5-percent probability estimate of technically recoverable oil resources in the 1002 Area of ANWR.” In other words, there is a 1-in-20 probability that there is this amount of technically recoverable oil in the Arctic.
Memo Claim: “The legislation will … Allow development of our nation’s shale oil resources, which could provide an additional 2.5 million barrels of oil per day”
Truth: The Rand Corporation did an exhaustive study in 2005 that examined “Oil Shale Development in the United States.” Oil shale refers to “sedimentary rock that contains solid bituminous materials that are released as petroleum-like liquids when the rock is heated” to 700 degrees. The largest areas with oil shale potential include Colorado and Utah.
Rand cited many problems with oil shale production, including:
- High water use—it takes three barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil. This would occur in an area suffering from record drought.
- Huge amounts of waste rock. Three million barrels of shale oil per day would create 1 billion tons of spent shale annually.
- Large emissions of acid rain and smog precursors, as well as greenhouse gases.
Rand concluded that, “the prospects for oil shale development are uncertain. The estimated cost of surface retorting [heating and capturing the oil] remains high…For surface retorting, it therefore seems inappropriate to contemplate near-term commercial efforts…. Many uncertainties regarding technology performance and environmental and socioeconomic impacts remain unresolved…[the] resolution of the most critical issues associated with strategically significant levels of production will not occur until the initial round of large-scale commercial facilities are constructed and operated—a point that is at least 12 years down the road.”
Memo Claim: “The legislation will … Spur the development of alternative fuels, including… promoting coal-to-liquids technology.”
Truth: Coal to liquid technology, first perfected by the Germans during World War II, converts coal into liquid transportation fuel. It requires eight gallons of water to produce a gallon of fuel, and releases twice as much greenhouse gases as refining oil into gasoline.
Memo Claim: “The legislation will … Provide tax incentives for businesses and families that purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.”
Truth: On December 6, 2007, the House voted by 218-195 in favor of new tax incentives for the purchase of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which should get 100 miles to the gallon or more. All Republicans voted against it, along with eight Democrats.
House Republican Leaders repeatedly voted against better fuel economy standards in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007.
Memo Claim: “The legislation will … Provide tax incentives for businesses and homeowners who improve their energy efficiency”
Truth: On August 4, 2007, the House passed a bill to provide $16 billion to extend tax incentives for efficiency and renewables. It passed 215-191. All Republicans opposed it, along with five Democrats.
Memo Claim: “The legislation … Establishes a renewable energy trust fund using revenues generated by exploration in the deep ocean and in the Arctic coastal plain.”
Truth: On January 18, 2007, the House of Representatives voted to eliminate $14 billion in tax breaks for big oil companies, and shift the funds to investments in clean energy technology. The bill, H.R. 6, passed by 264-163. Thirty-six of 195 GOP representatives voted for it, while four Democrats opposed along with every memo signer.
Memo Claim: “The legislation … Permanently extends the tax credit for alternative energy production, including wind, solar and hydrogen.”
Truth: On December 6, 2007, the House voted on additions to the pending Energy Independence and Security Act bill that would have also extended tax credits for production of wind, solar, and other renewable energy, as well as for efficiency. On February 27, 2008, the House passed another version of an extension of tax credits for efficiency and renewables. This bill also included new incentives for PHEVs. It passed 220-188. No Republicans voted for it. Only one Democrat opposed it.
Memo Claim: “The legislation will … Eliminate barriers to the expansion of carbon-free nuclear power production.”
Truth: These are code words for eliminating the procedural protections to ensure the safe construction and operation of nuclear power plants. This proposal would presumably eliminate citizen participation so that those most affected by the location of a new plant would have a say in the matter.
In fact, the delays in building nuclear power plants are due to many other factors, including extremely high and escalating capital costs, plant construction delays due to supply bottlenecks, the fact that the United States has to import over 90 percent of its uranium, and vast uncertainties about permanent nuclear waste storage.
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Daniel J. Weiss