How Long Will Republicans say "Yes" to the Drill?

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The connection between the Republicans and oil drilling was a cliche long before Sarah Palin lead the "drill baby drill" chants during the election, but it seems to be taking on a life of its own. A recent post in the WSJ's Environmental Capital Blog highlights the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, who's hitching his political wagon to the drillbit:

"On energy, our opponents will say NO to offshore drilling, NO to clean coal, NO to nuclear, and NO to the new jobs and investment that come with it. When it comes to promoting energy independence: They'll just say NO, we'll just say YES!"

And while the drillbit probably looks like a wedge issue right now, it has a self-limiting characteristic, namely that Virginia's offshore reserves are estimated to be only 130 million barrels of oil, enough to supply the US for a week, according to the Washington Post.

The "drill baby drill" argument shows that the Republicans will stand up to environmentalists, but practically it's limited. After all, the US has just 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, and a quarter of the world's oil demand. The Persian Gulf holds 67 percent of the world's reserves, we find ourselves playing a measly 3 percent hand in a game that may go on for 50 years. Would we be better off drilling our stores now, or holding on to them when they're rarer or worth more? It seems to me that leaving those reserves in the ground could develop into a conservative position.

What might make Republicans say "Wait" to the drill? It seems that Obama's energy efficiency and alternative fuel projects are making the Saudis fret, according to Greg Priddy of Eurasia Group, "that their hydrocarbons based economy is being undermined." If so, there is already a strong security value to the "green" measures that Obama is encouraging, the the Republicans may want go one better by creating a national security-based "olive green" movement of their own. 







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Lisa Margonelli is a writer on energy and environment. She spent four years and traveled 100,000 miles to write her book, "Oil On the Brain: Petroleum's Long Strange Trip to Your Tank." More

Lisa Margonelli directs the New America Foundation's Energy Productivity Initiative, which works to promote energy efficiency as a way of ensuring energy security, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and economic security for American families. She spent roughly four years and traveled 100,000 miles to report her book about the oil supply chain, Oil On the Brain: Petroleum's Long Strange Trip to Your Tank, which the American Library Association named one of the 25 Notable Books of 2007. She spent her childhood in Maine where, during the energy crisis of the 1970s, her family heated the house with wood hauled by a horse. Later, fortunately, they got a tractor. The experience instilled a strong appreciation for the convenience of fossil fuels.

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