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Joseph Romm Headshot

McCain Lies About Oil Drilling and the Media Yawns

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I don't really see how there is any serious prospect for solving either our energy security problem or our climate problem if the traditional media doesn't do any policing whatsoever of statements by major politicians. Here is McCain yesterday:

"... it will be vital that we continue oil production at a high level including offshore drilling. Now, the briefings that I have had with the oil producers, there are some instances that within a matter of months, they could be getting additional oil."

Standing in front of a large California oil drill, in what appears to be filming of a new movie, There Will Be Lies, McCain went so far as to say:

But there's abundant resources in the view of the people who are in the business that could be exploited within a period of months. So offshore drilling is something we have to do.

Okay, I can understand why he believes whatever stuff the oil producers make up -- they are lining his pockets now. And I understand the three reasons that McCain would lie to the public:
  1. His original "placebo" argument wasn't very compelling: "Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have a psychological impact that I think is beneficial."
  2. The truth is even less compelling: Ending the moratorium on coastal drilling holds no serious promise of reducing gasoline prices for US consumers even a single penny two decades from now according to Bush's own energy analysts (see "The cruel offshore-drilling hoax").
  3. Since he has no actual plan for getting us out of the economic mess Bush got us into, McCain is now going so far as "framing his support for expanded offshore drilling and other energy proposals as economic stimulants in an effort to woo voters concerned about the floundering economy" (Greenwire 7/29, subs. req'd). Seriously!
  4. But why does the media let a major party candidates get away with such disinformation? And it is disinformation. As a U.S. Energy Information Administration analyst told me earlier this month:

    ... the constraints on offshore drilling have little to do with the price of oil, but a lot to do with timing. Once the leases are available, it is a 5 to 10 years before you get to exploratory drilling. There is a tremendous shortage of drilling rigs and manpower. Plus, offshore drilling is so expensive, you don't want to make any mistakes. So you spend do a lot of seismic analysis to minimize your chances of a dry well.

    And it is probably another five or more years from drilling your exploratory well to getting significant production from the area -- and that assumes you didn't dig a dry well. If you did, then you are probably going to be even more cautious. And all that assumes you have developed a pipeline infrastructure for delivering the oil. But the Atlantic Coast lacks such an infrastructure, so who knows how long it would take to get its oil?

    On top of that, California won't allow drilling off its coast anytime soon. And Sen. Martinez won't allow drilling off Florida's coast anytime soon. And Big Oil has tens of billions of barrels of oil yet to find and retrieve from the Gulf of Mexico leases that were opened up two years ago.

    So McCain's claim is spin wrapped in a lie wrapped in a hoax.

    If there is no penalty in the public arena for lying, then we're just going to get more and more of it.

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