The following is from the June 18, 2008, edition of Time. Professor Bruce Bullock, executive director of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute, provided expertise for this story.
By Bryan Walsh
On Wednesday morning President George W. Bush urged Congress to overturn a 26-year ban on offshore oil drilling in the U.S., and open a part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for petroleum exploration.
Flanked by the secretaries of Energy and the Interior, Bush also proposed streamlining the construction process for new oil refineries, and explained that these moves would "take pressure off gas prices over time by expanding the amount of American-made oil and gasoline." Coming a day after Republican presumptive presidential nominee John McCain made a similar appeal to enhance domestic oil exploration, Bush was sending an unsubtle election year message to the American public: I care about the economic toll of $4 a gallon gas, and Democrats in Congress, who have opposed such an expansion, don't.
But there's a flaw in that logic: even if tomorrow we opened up every square mile of the outer Continental Shelf to offshore rigs, even if we drilled the entire state of Alaska and pulled new refineries out of thin air, the impact on gas prices would be minimal and delayed at best. . .
Though Democratic Senator Barack Obama and most of his party are against the proposed expansion, McCain and his supporters may have the public on their side: a recent Gallup poll found that 57% of Americans believe we should open up new territories to drilling.
"It could help in the long term," says Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. Still, he acknowledges that even expanded drilling is unlikely to bring prices down much. . . "We can't drill our way out of this and we can't conserve our way out either. We need both."
# # #