The Progress Report has tons of good info and links on the subject of offshore drilling today:

Today, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Energy Policy Act. Bodman, who famously said President Bush "didn’t mean it literally" when he promised to cut Middle East oil imports by 75 percent by 2025, couldn’t have picked a worst time to throw an anniversary party. Gas prices are up $0.70 a gallon since last year, and nationwide prices hit a $3.01 a gallon last week. Record temperatures nationwide have led to blackouts in California , St. Louis , and New York City . Meanwhile, "five of the world’s largest energy companies are expected to report combined second-quarter profits next week of more than $30 billion." (BP pocketed $55,000 a minute in profits during the second quarter.) Despite the news, Congress is "poised to go on August recess with little to show" on energy policy. "Congress’s default response to the nation’s manifest energy problems," the New York Times wrote yesterday, "is to increase supply, while doing nothing to reduce demand." As evidence of this, the Senate will take up legislation to "open a small area off the coast of Florida to drilling while preventing energy exploration within 125 miles of the state’s coastline through 2022." Earlier this year, the House passed its version, which allows "oil and gas drilling at least 50 miles from shore, ending a moratorium in effect since 1981 on the nation’s Pacific and Atlantic coasts." It is unclear which version will ultimately make it out of Congress, but both bills are "aimed exclusively at increasing production." The lack of focus on reducing demand or developing alternatives to fossil fuels is "mind-boggling."

DRILLING OURSELVES DEEPER INTO A HOLE: Demand for oil will continue to grow. The Energy Information Administration found "[w]orld energy consumption is projected to increase by 71 percent from 2003 to 2030." The U.S. uses 25 percent of the world’s oil supply and has only three percent of the world’s known oil reserves, making it impossible for America "to drill its way to lower oil prices, much less oil independence." Opening up the area of the Florida coast (Lease Sale 181) to drilling, as the Senate bill proposes, would provide only 47 days worth of oil and four months worth of natural gas. (The additional oil and gas wouldn’t be available quickly because it "often takes seven years before a new offshore field begins producing.") In any case, allowing oil and gas companies to lease more areas is an inefficient way to increase supply. "Currently, there are 328 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in offshore locations already available for drilling and the industry has only leased 10 percent of the area available." The federal government already encourages drilling in the Gulf, to the tune of $20 billion over the next 25 years, according to the Government Accountability Office. As Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said of the House bill, "We should not be opening all of our coasts to oil drilling when we have not taken the first step to conserve oil."

A DIRTY SOLUTION: Lifting the 35-year moratorium on offshore drilling "is by far the slowest, dirtiest, most expensive way to meet our energy needs." More drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf would put coastal areas in harm’s way and would worsen the climate change challenges we face. Between 1980 and 1999, three million gallons of oil spilled from offshore oil and gas operations into the Gulf of Mexico . (That’s 150,000 gallons a year.) Oceanographers at the University of South Florida predicted that within 24 hours, a spill from Lease Sale 181 would "sully Florida ‘s Panhandle beaches" and "travel around the Florida Keys and contaminate estuaries and beaches from the Everglades to Cape Canaveral ." Plus, provisions in the House bill mean the "closer to shore a cash-strapped state allows drilling, the more money it stands to receive." ("States would receive 63.75 percent of royalties for oil and gas platforms within 12 miles of shore, and 42.5 percent of revenues for areas more than 12 miles offshore.") Continuing America ‘s addiction to oil would do nothing to stop climate change. Unless we take action now, global temperatures will rise between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100, as sea levels rise by as much as three feet.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

HIGHER FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS ‘DON’T BELONG HERE’: U.S. consumption of gasoline accounts for 11 percent of world oil production, yet fuel economy standards have been stuck at 27.5 miles per gallon for 20 years. (Last year, Bush acknowledged the importance of conservation when he asked Americans to "maybe not drive…on a trip that’s not essential.") A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), introduced an amendment to the drilling bill last week to do something about the abysmally low fuel standards. Their goal is a modest one — a four percent increase every year — but the payoff would be huge. They estimate the bill "will save 1.3 million barrels of oil per day and 20 billion gallons of gasoline per year." Amendments like these can free us from our "terribly one-sided energy policy." Yet, Senate Majority Leader Bill First (R-TN) "appears to have rejected amendment requests." "Everybody has a great energy amendment," said Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). "Some of them are relevant and great, but they don’t belong here." 

SUPPLYING LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS: Lawmakers "continue to fiddle as Rome burns," while others lead the way towards a comprehensive national energy strategy. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other national security and energy experts are unveiling a plan today at the Center for American Progress to "chart a new course toward increased energy independence and enhanced national, economic, and environmental security." (Read the plan HERE.) In California , voters will have the chance to support a Clean Alternative Energy Initiative, which would "impose a wellhead tax on oil companies operating in California" to finance $4 billion towards alternative-fuel vehicles and renewable energy and conservation research. The goal is to reduce gasoline and diesel usage by 25 percent over 10 years.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.