Claims have been made recently that the now-expired federal moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico contributed to higher gasoline prices. Let’s look at the facts.
The moratorium did not shut down any producing wells. Let me repeat that, because it’s the key to the fact situation: Not one producing well was shut down by the moratorium. What the moratorium halted, temporarily, was proposed new drilling of about 30 new wells which might, or might not, have been successful.
Let’s put that into context. U.S. domestic oil production is higher now than it was under the Bush Administration. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, domestic oil drilling in 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration, was 12.93 quadrillion BTU per day, about 6.5 million barrels. The EIA reports 13.78 quadrillion BTU figure for 2009 and projects 14.46 quadrillion BTU (about 7.2 million barrels) per day in 2012.
Production of oil in the Gulf of Mexico accounts for around 30 percent of U.S. production. In 2009, production from the Gulf was about 1.6 million barrels per day. According to NOAA, there are now nearly 4,000 wells producing oil and gas in the Gulf. And to repeat, not one of those wells was shut down after the BP blowout.
The other figure to keep in mind is that U.S. consumption of oil is well over twice domestic production and is currently near 20 million barrels/day. So even if 30 more exploratory wells had been allowed to proceed after the BP disaster, and if all of them were successful, the impact on U.S. gasoline supplies would have been minimal.
The same is true today. Gasoline prices aren’t going to come down from $4.25 per gallon (in my neighborhood) because a dozen, 30 or 100 new exploratory wells get the OK from the federal government.
The better way to deal with rising gasoline prices is to reduce our reliance on gasoline by moving to a renewable, clean energy future and the tens of thousands of jobs that come with it. When we do, we can plug, baby, plug those 4,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico and stop putting the Gulf at risk from events like the BP oil disaster.