The Washington Post opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and other ecologically sensitive areas. But the Post also opposes misinformation about offshore oil drilling spread by environmentalist groups and others. In particular, the Post takes aim at three myths about offshore driling:
Drilling is pointless because the United States has only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. This is a misleading because it refers only to known oil reserves. According to the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS), while there are an estimated 18 billion barrels of oil in the off-limits portions of the OCS, those estimates were made using old data from now-outdated seismic equipment. . . . there could be much more oil under the sea than previously known. The demand for energy is going up, not down. And for a long time, even as alternative sources of energy are developed, more oil will be needed.
The oil companies aren't using the leases they already have. . . . The notion that oil companies are just sitting on oil leases is a myth. With oil prices still above $100 a barrel, that charge never made sense.
Drilling is environmentally dangerous. . . . According to the MMS, between 1993 and 2007, there were 651 spills of all sizes at OCS facilities (in federal waters three miles or more offshore) that released 47,800 barrels of oil. With 7.5 billion barrels of oil produced in that time, that equates to 1 barrel of oil spilled per 156,900 barrels produced. That's not to minimize the danger. But no form of energy is perfect or without trade-offs. Besides, if it is acceptable to drill in the Caspian Sea and in developing countries such as Nigeria where environmental concerns are equally important, it's hard to explain why the United States should rule out drilling off its own coasts.
Drilling — offshore or anywhere else — is no panacea, and the drilling debate should not distract policymakers from considering ways to encourage the economical development of alternative energy sources (such as with prizes). Yet, as the Post notes, "with the roaring economies of China and India gobbling up oil in the two countries' latter-day industrial revolutions, the United States can no longer afford to turn its back on finding all the sources of fuel necessary to maintain its economy and its standard of living." In other words, we'll still need new sources of oil in the near-to-medium term.