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Column: Offshore Drilling Not Hoax, But Necessity To United States

This story was written by Jesse Hathaway, The Post

Heres a brain-teaser to start the weekend with: What is supported by 64 percent of Ohio voters, is opposed by only one out of five American voters and is potentially worth over $48 billion? Pencils down, readers, times up. The answer is the oil locked up off Americas coasts.

Thats right, under the peaceful waves of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans sits an estimated 45 billion barrels of oil, and, for misguided ecological reasons, we havent been allowed to touch most of it. Contrary to what you may think, petroleum is not the same as gasoline. One 42-gallon drum of oil produces only 19.15 gallons of gasoline. Petroleum is a vital part of everyday items such as ink, medicines, cleaning solvents and dyes. Also, if something is made out of plastic, you can bet that petroleum is in it. Basically, the economy of the entire world not just the United States economy is dependent on that miracle molecule. Like it or not, we need petroleum in order to survive as a civilization.

Unfortunately, because of dumb luck, most of the worlds petroleum is controlled by nations that to put it lightly are unfriendly to the United States. Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran were three of the top five producers of petroleum in 2007. The US was the number three producer (China was number five). If we can reduce our reliance on nations that are unfriendly or outright hostile toward us, shouldnt we take that opportunity to do so? It seems rather obvious that the answer is a resounding yes!

So if we need petroleum, and petroleum is so essential to human civilization, why would anyone be against increasing the security of the flow of the fluid that makes the world go round? The argument most people hear the most involves the ecological impact of drilling. Oil opponents claim doom and gloom is in store for all of us, citing accidents such as the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, when 80,000 barrels of oil were leaked on to the beaches of Santa Barbara, or citing unrelated, petroleum-based hazards such as the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire.

According to the National Academy of Science, however, science shows that these incidents are the exception, not the rule: Drilling and extraction account for less than 1 percent of petroleum pollution in American water. To contrast, 63 percent of the petroleum in the water is there because of naturally occurring seeps. According to the Minerals Management Service, there have been 47,800 barrels of oil spilled at already existing offshore drilling sites over the last 14 years. This is equal to one barrel spilled for every 156,900 barrels produced. The ecological risk from offshore drilling is minimal, thus, shooting down the environmentalists argument against expansion of offshore drilling.

According to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, offshore drilling expansion is a hoax and a decoy to punt your attention away from the fact that (their) policies have produced $4-a-gallon gasoline. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama suggested that we could save all the oil that theyre talking about getting off drilling, if everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups. While proper maintenance will add a few miles to the gallon, its physically impossible that the lowly gas gauge is the answer to Americas energy crisis, no matter how much some liberals may insist that it is. We need to work on increasing supply, as well as decreasing demand.

In recent days, it seems, Democrats have decided to concede the energy issue to Republicans. A spending bill is currently being circulated through Congress that will among other things allow the 26-year ban on offshore drilling to expire at th end of the month. It will be about seven years before the oil from the new areas will be shipped to market, but its still a victory for America. Perhaps drill, baby, drill wasnt such a stupid motto after all.