New Drilling Bills Won't Help with Gas Prices, Will Make Rules Weaker than Pre-BP Spill

This week the House of Representatives will begin voting on a set of bills that would make offshore drilling rules weaker than they were before the BP oil disaster.

I traveled to Louisiana two weeks ago and spoke to people still trying to rebuild their lives and businesses after the spill. It is unconscionable for lawmakers to call for a sweeping expansion of offshore drilling before they put stronger safeguards in place.

And it is cynical for politicians to claim that more drilling will relieve high gas prices.

More drilling only means more profits for the oil industry—not lower costs at the pump—and oil companies hardly need a boost right now. They are receiving billions in taxpayer subsidies and reaping record profits. ExxonMobil made nearly $11 billion in the first quarter of 2011 alone. 

On top of that, the oil industry is already drilling more than ever before, even with some safeguards in place. Production in the Outer Continental Shelf has increased by more than a third in the past two years, and production in the Gulf of Mexico brought in 1.6 million barrels of oil per day last year—and all-time record.

Yet despite all that drilling, gas prices continue to soar. Canada drills even more than America, and their gas prices have risen just as sharply as ours. The reason is clear: with rising competition from China and India and with 70 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves owned by OPEC nations, more drilling in North America has little effect on the global market.

Even if we expanded offshore drilling considerably, we wouldn’t see an impact on gas prices until 2030, and even then it would be a matter of just five cents per gallon, according to data from the Energy Information Agency.

If instead we raise fuel economy standard to 60 miles per gallon by 2025, we could cut driver bills at the pump in half.

Building cars that go farther using less gasoline is the best way to protect Americans from price spikes. It will also create jobs, slash our oil imports, and reduce dangerous air pollution.

President Obama has already started moving America down this road: he established standards requiring vehicles to reach an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Now he has a chance to go farther. In September, the government will release the next round of standards, and NRDC is asking the president to set them at 60 miles per gallon. Technologies to meet this goal are well known: strong standards will ensure they come to market.

You can click here to ask President Obama to jumpstart the real solution to gas prices: raising fuel economy standards to 60 miles per gallon by 2025.

This is the kind of solution we need right now. We don’t need lawmakers to promote reckless drilling that will fail to lower gas prices and endanger our coasts.

I urge you to call your representative today at 877-573-7693 and say that instead of passing irresponsible bills designed to weaken drilling safeguards, Congress should be strengthening efforts to protect workers, fishermen, coastal tourism, and the marine environment.