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Against Paris Hilton's Energy Policy

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Dear Paris,

Along with more than two million other red-blooded Americans, I watched your response to the attack on you by John McCain. Kudos to you for not letting the wrinkly white-haired guy push you around.

But you're wrong about energy policy. Here's what you said in the video:

"Here's my energy policy: Barack wants to focus on new technologies to cut foreign oil dependency. And McCain wants offshore drilling. Well why don't we do a hybrid of both candidates' ideas. We can do limited offshore drilling, with strict environmental oversight, while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way, the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in, which will then create new jobs and energy independence. Energy crisis solved."

Offshore drilling isn't going to do squat, Paris. Have you looked at the numbers?

As Dean Baker and Nichole Szembrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted in a June 2008 paper, the U.S. Energy Information Administration - which produces official energy statistics for the U.S. government, and whose mission is to "provide policy-neutral data, forecasts, and analyses to promote sound policy making, efficient markets, and public understanding regarding energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment" - projects that

Senator McCain's proposal would have no impact in the near-term since it will be close to a decade before the first oil can be extracted from the currently protected offshore areas. The EIA projects that production will reach 200,000 barrels a day (0.2 percent of projected world production) at peak production in close to twenty years. It describes this amount as too small to have any significant effect on oil prices.

"No impact in the near-term." That means it's not going to "carry us" until something else happens. It's not a short-term solution.

And it's not a long-term solution, either. Does 200,000 barrels a day sound like a lot? In terms of the global oil market, it's nothing. How small is 0.2%? In the first 11 weeks, your movie "House of Wax" grossed $32 million at the box office. If your contract guaranteed you 0.2% of the gross (which I doubt it did), you would have received $64,000. I imagine that would barely cover your hairdressing bill for the year.

As CEPR notes, if the United States had simply continued raising auto fuel efficiency standards annually between 1985-2005 by a quarter of the amount it raised them annually from 1980-1985 - instead of leaving them virtually unchanged - the result would have roughly been the equivalent of 3.3 million barrels of oil per day in new production in 2008 - 16 times the long-term impact of the offshore drilling touted by McCain.

If you want a short-term solution, try this: if the United States negotiated a deal with Iran that led to the lifting of US sanctions on Iran, it would immediately calm oil markets, and could lead to an increase in Iranian production of 1-2 million barrels a day after a few years. That increase would be 5 to 10 times McCain's offshore drilling.

I welcome you to the debate, Paris. There is no leverage in America like access to the microphone. Your celebrity gives you an awesome power, at which mere scribblers can only shake our heads in envy. Use your power for good. Support conservation and real negotiations with Iran - and oppose offshore drilling.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die