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Oil | An oil "crisis" means time to stop making offshore drilling off-limits

Issue: "Ethiopia's new flower," May 31, 2008

With gas prices topping $4 a gallon in some regions of the country, now may not be the best time to say something positive about "big oil," but here goes anyway.

Where is it written that the cost for a product or service should be frozen, never to rise again? People who think this way know little to nothing about supply and demand and less about profit motive. That's because at least three generations have been raised on the notion of entitlement, and when one feels entitled to something, one believes someone else should pay.

Senate Democrats this month sought to ingratiate themselves with voters, while doing nothing to produce more energy: They want to repeal $17 billion in tax breaks for the oil companies over 10 years and on top of that impose a windfall profit tax on companies that don't invest in new energy sources. This is political expediency at its worst.

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Peter Robertson, vice chairman of Chevron, told me it's a myth that oil companies are not investing in new energy sources. He says last year alone, Chevron spent $20 billion exploring new sources of energy.

Robertson said President Bush's trip last week to Saudi Arabia is "highly embarrassing" because he is "calling on the Saudis to produce more oil when we are not doing it ourselves." The last refinery built in America was in 1976. Tighter government regulations are the main reason. That's how unserious we are about our energy "crisis."

Robertson said there would be plenty of oil available to the United States if oil companies were allowed to get it: "Eighty-five percent of offshore oil is off-limits." Responding to objections to offshore drilling, Robertson noted that some of the strongest pro-environment nations in Europe-he mentions Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom-lease offshore locations for oil exploration. The technology has become so good, he said, that during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, "one thousand offshore wells were destroyed, but not one leaked."

According to government estimates, there is enough oil in areas accessible to America-112 billion barrels-to power more than 60 million cars for 60 years. The Outer Continental Shelf alone contains an estimated 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Because most of the oil remains "off-limits," we are becoming more dependent on foreign oil.

-© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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