This story was written by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Ali Frick, Benjamin Armbruster, and Brad Johnson.
Yesterday, citing the "squeeze of rising prices at the pump," President Bush rescinded the presidential moratorium on offshore drilling.
The moratorium on lease sales in the Outer Continental Shelf was established in 1990 by his father, George H.W. Bush, in response to the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill and extended by President Clinton.
Bush's action pressures Congress to follow him in "capitulation to the oil companies" by lifting their moratorium, which must be renewed annually. In response, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) said at a press conference that Bush "is invoking the specter of another WMD: wells of mass deception."
At the Huffington Post, activist Martin Bosworth wrote, "Americans are smarter than we are often given credit for, and many of us do realize that destroying precious environmental resources and wildlife reserves to allow more domestic drilling is a psychological panacea -- a placebo to make us feel like 'something is being done.'"
However, polls show increasing support for expanded offshore drilling. Conservatives are preying on Americans' concern overskyrocketing gas prices by propagating false myths that drilling for oil off our coasts will allow us to "pay less" at the pump, that it's "environmentally safe," and that drilling is already underway by communist China.
Because "only real beneficiaries will be the oil companies that are trying to lock up every last acre of public land," their political allies must resort to selling falsehoods.
MYTH #1 -- 'DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW, PAY LESS'
Newt Gingrich's 527 organization, American Solutions, is promoting a "Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less" campaign, collecting over one million signatures on its petition to Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices" by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves" off our coasts.
American Solutions is funded by right-wing Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who wants Americans to place another bad bet on oil drilling. As the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has explained, "access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030."
But because United States demand for oil far outstrips production -- we consume 25 percent of the world's supply but have two percent of the proven reserves -- further exploitation of domestic resources will not have a long-term impact either. After 2030, the EIA found, "any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant."
There are numerous ways to immediately affect prices, from use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to improved oversight of the oil markets. Over the long term, we must fight global warming and break our addiction to oil through modern technology like plug-in hybrids and smart growth planning.
MYTH #2 -- CHINA ON OUR COASTS
Conservatives from Rudy Giuliani to Dick Cheney have repeatedly claimed that the United States needs to start drilling for off-shore oil because China is taking "American oil" off the coast of Cuba, just "60 miles off the coast of Florida."
Cheney exhorted, "Even the communistshave figured out that a good answer to high prices is more supply." That same day, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) wrote that Castro was allowing drilling "45 miles from the Florida keys."
Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) have also raised the specter of Chinese drilling just off U.S. shores. However, this modern invocation of the Red Scare the claim is completely false.
As Cheney was forced to acknowledge, "no Chinese firm is drilling" off Cuba's coast. Talking Points Memo has recorded the large number of conservatives hyping the false story.The Washington Post's Ben Pershing said the China/Cuba oil drilling claim is the "myth that keeps on giving," calling it "just too juicy not to repeat."
MYTH #3 -- 'NOT A DROP WAS SPILLED'
Offshore drilling advocates know that the specter of oil-slicked beaches would doom their campaign, so they are desperate to wish its environmental impact away.
Yesterday, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed "not a drop of oil was spilled during Katrina or Rita." This myth has been told again and again by the likes ofGov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Mike Huckabee, George Will, and Bill O'Reilly.
There were, in fact, major onshore and offshore spills due to the hurricanes. According to the official Minerals Management Service report, the hurricanes caused 124 offshore spills for a total of 743,700 gallons, six spilling 42,000 gallons or more.
The largest of these spills dropped 152,250 gallons, well over the 100,000 gallon threshhold considered a "major spill." In addition, the hurricanes caused disastrous spills onshore throughout southeast Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast as tanks, pipelines, refineries and other industrial facilities were destroyed, for a total of 595 different oil spills.
The nine million gallons reported spilled were comparable with the Exxon Valdez's 10.8 million gallons, but unlike the Exxon Valdez, they were distributed throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and other Gulf Coast states, many in residential areas.