For the Last Time: Drill, Baby, Drilling Will Not Lower Gas Prices

drill baby drill not lower gas prices

Photo credit: ^riza^ via Flickr/CC BY

Oh politics. How inane thou art. Take this fun pack o' lies that keeps cropping up like clockwork every few years when gas prices rise: That if we'd just open up all of that sweet, sweet American coastline and heartland for drilling, prices at the pump would come tumbling down! Politicians can be expected to make this claim every time gas prices climb to the $4 range -- which, of course, is still really, really cheap, considering. We hear the asinine calls to Drill, Baby, Drill, or whatever variant is currently being touted, whenever pols sniff an opportunity in the air to award their oil buddies some more prime real estate ... but of course, the underlying justification is simply not true. The current iteration of the pro-drilling blitz is the misguided notion that Obama is somehow holding the nation in a regulatory stranglehold -- without which cheap oil would be flowing into gas stations everywhere! That's the notion that House National Resource Committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) has been pushing, but as this nice little takedown from Wonk Room shows, it's simply not true:

  • The oil and gas industry has failed to use more than two-thirds of the offshore leases they hold in the Gulf of Mexico and more than half of those they hold onshore.

  • The industry has almost 7,200 drilling permits on federal lands that it hasn't used yet, according to BLM data obtained by E&E; news.

  • In Wyoming alone, the oil and gas industry has idled nearly 12,000 natural gas wells that were actually producing. The cause? A "downturn in pricing" - in other words, low natural gas prices, according to Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission supervisor Tom Doll.

  • As the head of the Energy Information Administration told Hastings' panel the other day, opening up more federal lands to oil drilling will have at best a marginal impact on gas prices and even if there is a reduction it could be erased by OPEC cutting production.

  • The United States has 1,738 drill rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and gas right now, a 20 percent increase over a year ago. That's more than the rest of the world has combined, not including Russia and China

The fact is, opening up more land for drilling will likely have next to no impact on domestic gas prices right now; if it did sufficiently increase supply enough to lower prices in the long run, it would take years before the impact was felt. So it's really just another prime example of opportunistic politics in action.

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