Obama to Announce Expanded Offshore Drilling Later Today - 3 Years of Oil Supply, Maybe

offshore oil drilling platform photo
photo: Enricco Strocchi via flickr.

You read it right. Later today at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce new plans to expand offshore oil drilling in several areas of the country. Obviously the exact details will be forthcoming, but the New York Times, the Guardian, Reuters and others have gotten wind of what the plan will entail:Along the east coast, oil drilling will be permitted in some 167 million acres of ocean from northern Delaware to the central Florida coast. Areas from New Jersey though Maine will remain closed, as will the entire Pacific coast from Mexico to Canada.

Also closed will be Bristol Bay in Alaska, though nearly 130 million acres in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will be open for exploration once environmental studies are completed.

Estimates of Recoverable Oil and Gas 30 Years Old
Any future drilling will not actually occur for a number of years, and it's not known with much degree of precision who much recoverable oil is in the areas to be opened. Existing estimates, based on 30 year old data, place it perhaps a three year supply of oil and two years of natural gas at current consumption rates.

Forget Energy Independence Rhetoric, This is About Political Compromise
All of which makes me wonder, as I have for some time, whether the potential risks of the exploration in terms of spills and other pollution really are worth the tiny additional supply to be gained. If those estimates aren't radically revised upwards it also really calls into question whether the additional domestic supply really does anything meaningful whatsoever in terms of reducing dependency on foreign oil sources. This aspect of expanded offshore oil drilling is a ruse and always has been.

In the end it's all just throwing a bone to the fossil fuel industry in the hopes of getting more support for some sort of climate and energy legislation--perhaps not the worst compromise out there.

We'll have the official announcement when it happens.

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