Should Congress lift the ban on drilling for oil?

No one disputes that a lot of oil lies untapped under the rocky floors of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans off the U.S. coasts, in areas where Congress has banned drilling since 1982. But is it enough to free the U.S. from its dependence on foreign suppliers?

Based on this Scientific American article, the answer is no. However, read the reader feedback to gain a broader perspective. Regardless of whether you lean right or left, I think you’ll find the article and the comments enlightening (or infuriating).

We’re talking science, economics, statistics, values, and pure politics piled up like a giant parfait. If you can provide some clarity to this heavily layered conversation, please do. 

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  • Darlene,
    this “fight” seems to break along the line on what is in the best interest of small sectors, not the U.S. as a whole. There are oil industry supporters, global warming deniers, and anti-drilling environmentalists all in the comments. yet none of them seems to be answering the fundamental policy questions that go along with the drilling capacity questions. These would include:

    1. Since oil companies are in the business of making profits, what is the liklyhood they will drill on new leases even if there are more reserves then previously thought. Several commenters pointed out (which I did not know) that oil company valuation hinges on the size of their reserves, not the amount of production. So size does matter afterall! 😉

    2. The oil industry claims that it is at full refining capacity in the U.S. If that is so, how can they drill for more domestic oil unless they intend to refine it overseas? Seems to me that doing so would obviate any profits from drilling new leases, which sends me back to #1, above.

    3. Given the global demand curve increases, and the finite supply of U.S. oil (even with new revised estimates), it strikes me that we still need to move to alternative fuels and energy sources. In the long run (10-20 years) we can’t drill ourselves out of this one. We can’t refine ourselves out of this one. So yes, more oil may be a panacea, but will it really end the crisis, or just delay it? That’s what economists call opportunity costs, and we aren’t hearing about that much at all.

  • Darlene,
    this “fight” seems to break along the line on what is in the best interest of small sectors, not the U.S. as a whole. There are oil industry supporters, global warming deniers, and anti-drilling environmentalists all in the comments. yet none of them seems to be answering the fundamental policy questions that go along with the drilling capacity questions. These would include:

    1. Since oil companies are in the business of making profits, what is the liklyhood they will drill on new leases even if there are more reserves then previously thought. Several commenters pointed out (which I did not know) that oil company valuation hinges on the size of their reserves, not the amount of production. So size does matter afterall! 😉

    2. The oil industry claims that it is at full refining capacity in the U.S. If that is so, how can they drill for more domestic oil unless they intend to refine it overseas? Seems to me that doing so would obviate any profits from drilling new leases, which sends me back to #1, above.

    3. Given the global demand curve increases, and the finite supply of U.S. oil (even with new revised estimates), it strikes me that we still need to move to alternative fuels and energy sources. In the long run (10-20 years) we can’t drill ourselves out of this one. We can’t refine ourselves out of this one. So yes, more oil may be a panacea, but will it really end the crisis, or just delay it? That’s what economists call opportunity costs, and we aren’t hearing about that much at all.