Democrats have decided to allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week, conceding defeat in a months-long battle with the White House and Republicans set off by $4 a gallon gasoline prices this summer.This definitely is a victory for House Republicans, who campaigned hard and had to endure some wacky political stunts to pressure this decision.
The congressional battle over offshore drilling is far from over. Democrats are expected to press for broader energy legislation, probably next year, that would put limits on any drilling off most of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Republicans, meanwhile, are likely to fight any resumption of the drilling bans that have been in place since 1981.For voters this signifies a clear difference between the candidates. If Obama is elected, the offshore bans will be back in place quickly. If McCain is elected, offshore bans will only return if the House and Senate get veto-proof majorities, which is very unlikely.
One important aspect of this story which I am excited about is that the ban lifted also includes shale oil development. There is more shale oil in the western United States than there is under Saudi Arabia.
While oil shale is found in many places worldwide, by far the largest deposits in the world are found in the United States in the Green River Formation, which covers portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Estimates of the oil resource in place within the Green River Formation range from 1.2 to 1.8 trillion barrels. Not all resources in place are recoverable; however, even a moderate estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Present U.S. demand for petroleum products is about 20 million barrels per day. If oil shale could be used to meet a quarter of that demand, the estimated 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from the Green River Formation would last for more than 400 yearsDevelopments in extracting shale oil are proceeding slowly, but they are proceeding. Combine the shale oil resource in the U.S. with the Alberta oil sands in Canada, and you have a key to independence from (hostile) foreign oil sources. As Glenn Reynolds would say: faster please.