It may be true that "existing rigs" could produce additional barrels of domestic oil immediately, whether on land or in the ocean, as Sen. McCain suggests. If so, he might want to ask his friends in the oil business why those rigs aren't producing more oil now, at prices above $120 a barrel. An existing rig by definition is a rig that is operating legally on property already leased for exploration -- and can produce oil unencumbered by any environmental constraints on drilling.
In case the senator doesn't understand, an existing rig is where someone has already drilled a well.
Where companies would have to install new rigs, the question is whether a lease already exists or whether the government would have to grant a new lease. New drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf would mean new leases that are now illegal.
But as the Associated Press reported last month, nearly 75 percent of the existing leases on federal lands held by petroleum companies are currently producing no oil. Those companies today hold nearly 30 million acres dormant, according to the AP. Nobody in the federal government even knows whether any exploration has taken place over the past decade.
Perhaps Sen. McCain should ask his friends in the industry why they aren't exploring or producing on the leases they already control. A truthful answer would be that those leases count as financial assets whether productive or not -- and adding to them enhances an oil firm's bottom line.
The senator should also ask an oil company executive to step forward and explain how any new offshore oil lease can produce petroleum within the next few months or even a year. If that is possible, then the Department of Energy analysis of future domestic oil production is scandalously wrong. The department's Energy Information Agency released a study last year predicting that granting access to new offshore leases would not begin to produce any actual oil until around 2020, and would have no "significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030," if ever.
As the Republican presidential nominee -- and a putative environmentalist -- he suddenly seems eager to exploit voter discontent over high gasoline prices to promote offshore drilling. He may even think he can ride the energy crisis into the White House.
Voters may or may not believe the Senator's silly claims about his "briefings" from oilmen, which mainly seem to have involved handing over a fat check. Indeed, so far the only beneficiary of his offshore drilling offensive is the McCain presidential war chest. The Washington Post recently reported that the oil industry "gushed money after [his] reversal on oil drilling" last month.
They never gave him that kind of money when he talked straight.
© Creators Syndicate
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