By listening to the presidential debates and political pundits you could be forgiven in assuming that there is some correlation between domestic oil production and the price you pay at the pump. By now it has almost become a tenet of conventional wisdom that an uptick in domestic oil production--especially by expanding offshore drilling--will result in lowered gas prices.
But, is there any indication that this is actually true?
As NPR reporter David Kestenbaum discovered in talking to our energy-independent neighbors to the north, not really.
"Do all the conversions, adjust for taxes, and [Canadians are paying] something around $4 per gallon — about the same price as we pay in the U.S. right now.
Energy independence does not mean cheaper gasoline. It doesn't even mean that prices are more stable. Gas prices in Canada went up this summer just like they did in the United States."
Why is this? Common sense would seem to dictate that the more oil you produce at home the less vulnerable you are to foreign conflagrations, hostile petro-states and a fluctuating world market.
But that is not at all the case. As Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless distilled it in an op-ed for Politico:
Ask yourself this question: When BP or any other big oil company finds oil in the Gulf of Mexico, does it sell it to us at a discount because we were kind enough to let them drill in America?
No, it doesn’t. It sells it all over the world at the price set in the international oil market. As an international commodity, oil is priced on an international basis — according to global supply and demand.
This should be taken into consideration as the clamor for offshore drilling, especially from oil companies, grows. This much is clear: lower oil prices can't justify the perpetual specter of oil spills, seismic testing and greenhouse gas emissions that come from exploiting ever more remote pockets of fossil fuels.
For the PDF of this factsheet, click here.
Myth 1: Offshore drilling is safe.
The Deepwater Horizon Drilling Disaster is not an isolated incident and offshore oil drilling is extremely dangerous. Since 2006, the United States Minerals Management Service reports that there have been at least 21 offshore rig blowouts, 513 fires or explosions offshore and 30 fatalities from offshore oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just last year, a new offshore oil drilling rig off the coast of Australia had a blowout similar to the one on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The Australian rig spewed approximately 16,800 gallons of crude oil daily into the Timor Sea for about 75 days.
As we can see with the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, safety measures and so-called “failsafe” mechanisms can fail, and when they do, we do not have the technology to stop ongoing oil releases, nor are we capable of effectively cleaning them up.
After the Deepwater Drilling Disaster began 17 days ago, we’ve all tried to figure out why we should continue to expand drilling offshore.
For those who think it’s because it will help us achieve energy independence, think again. There is no way that we can drill our way to energy independence – and the government knows it.
Right now, we get about 65% of our oil from other countries, the biggest sources being Canada and Mexico. And government studies show that all the oil in US waters wouldn’t change that figure much. It would only lower it to about 60% at best. A government study expected to come out soon shows that even that much is unlikely.