06/18/2008 01:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bush and McCain: Drilling us into a Deeper Hole

It's hard to imagine that John McCain was too happy today when President Bush echoed his call for drilling up and down our nation's coastlines. He was having a hard enough time trying pass the laugh test when claiming that his plan would have any effect on gas prices anytime soon. Now this over-hyped plan has the stamp of approval from the one person you want to avoid -- a president who is not only an oil man but has also been wrong on just about every issue over the course of eight years.

Even without the Bush kiss of death, however, most people could see through this nonsensical idea. To hear John McCain or George Bush talk about it, you'd think that gasoline was going to be pipelined straight out of the ground and directly into your gas tank.

But people understand that, in an area devoid of the appropriate infrastructure, it takes a long, long time to build the derricks that would line our shores, along with the pipelines to reach land and the refineries to process the oil. And people also understand that the type of production McCain and Bush are talking about is a drop in the bucket -- or a drop in the barrel -- compared to what this nation consumes.

They may sell it as immediate relief at the pump, but what they're talking about is really a decade or more down the road and would amount to maybe a few pennies in savings, according to the Energy Information Administration. Who would think that's worth the wait? Or the economic risk?

What John McCain and George Bush are not saying is how their friends at the oil companies are sitting on -- get this -- 68 million acres of unused land leased to them by the American taxpayer. 68 million acres.

As we are moving to develop renewable energy, create alternative fuels and boost energy efficiency, that land represents domestic oil and gas production waiting to be had -- only the oil companies are not doing anything about it.

I'm an original co-sponsor of Senator Chris Dodd's legislation to penalize the oil companies that leave this type of land unused. Big Oil is looking for yet another government handout by opening up our coastline and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling -- it's time that our government stopped bending over backward for oil companies and instead started pushing them to do what they can with the generous resources they have been given.

In the long run, this Bush-McCain drill, drill, drill mentality only ends up drilling us into a deeper hole. The continued dependence on oil is disastrous for our economy and toxic for our planet. The economic dangers now and in the future are obvious by just looking at what our reliance on oil is doing to our nation today.

Families are pinching every penny so they can drive their kids to school or get themselves to work. With high food prices, some have to choose between putting a gallon of gas in their cars and putting a gallon of milk in their refrigerators. And many families aren't even thinking about flying anymore since gas prices have hit airlines so hard that fares are sky high and checking luggage is $15 a bag.

While we look at the critical short-term economic issues related to gas and food prices that matter a great deal to American families, we have to also make sure our planet is healthy for our kids and grandkids.

This dependence on fossil fuels does nothing to reduce the carbon emissions that have created our planetary crisis. The longer we put off transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy, the more severe our weather will get, the higher the oceans will rise and the more damaged the Earth will become.

For those of us living in coastal states, drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf presents another serious threat. With oil derricks and pipelines near our beaches comes the prospect of spills like the ones that have devastated the California coast in the past, which is why I introduced the COAST Act to permanently ban drilling on our coastlines.

Even if a state government somewhere like my home state of New Jersey would maintain its ban on offshore drilling, the next state over could lift its moratorium, and our coast would be threatened just the same. The millions of people who go to the Jersey Shore this summer and the thousands of business-owners who thrive on the tourism can tell you better than I can how an oil spill would be devastating in many ways.

There are so many reasons why the Bush-McCain drilling plan is absurd. There are hometown reasons, like the threat to our beaches. There are national reasons, like the failure to lower gas prices. And there are global reasons, like the future of our planet.

In the end, this is a plan that brings relief to oil companies, not American families. John McCain and George Bush just don't seem to get that the future is in a green economy, renewable energy, alternative fuels and energy efficiency, not in oil. But then again, I guess we shouldn't expect anything more from a president who is an oil man and the candidate he supports, who chose to give his big energy and environment speech in Houston, oil capital of the nation.