Bush Lifts Executive Ban on Offshore Drilling – Why it Matters and Why it Doesn’t

  • Published on July 14th, 2008

In a largely symbolic move, President George W. Bush ordered to lift the Executive Order banning the drilling of offshore oil wells in the U.S.. However, the move will have no effect on the current regulations on offshore drilling because there are two prohibitions on offshore drilling, one imposed by Congress and another by executive order signed by Bush the elder in 1990.

“Today, I’ve taken every step within my power to allow offshore exploration,” Bush told reporters today at the White House. “This means the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress.”

But actually, there are a few other things standing between the American people and “these vast oil resources,” the most significant being capitalism and global energy markets.

Opening up offshore oil drilling would not have an immediate impact on oil prices for two principle reasons: First, because oil exploration and development takes years, not months. And second, because there is no way of guaranteeing that any petroleum yielded from offshore projects will remain in U.S. markets. Once that crude oil leaves the seabed it becomes fair game on the open market.

The U.S. Energy Department’s forecasting arm has said opening the Pacific, Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico regions to drilling “would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.”

Almost a month ago, Mr. Bush called on Congress to lift their ban on offshore drilling and said he would lift the presidential ban. Despite the action from Bush, Congressional leadership has not been terribly interested in lifting the ban. House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Bush’s plan a “hoax.”

Fadel Gheit, oil and gas analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. Equity Capital Markets Division says, “If we were to drill today, realistically speaking, we should not expect a barrel of oil coming out of this new resource for three years, maybe even five years, so let’s not kid ourselves.”

Democratic leaders are in stead, calling on the president to release a small portion of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. They have already passed a law to temporarily stop the administration from continuing to fill the SPR, which is currently at 700 million barrels of oil. “Taking oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a careful, responsible way is the fastest way to bring down the price at the pump,” said Speaker Pelosi last week.

Monday’s announcement from the President Bush is not important because it will have any appreciable effect on the price of oil, but because it is further evidence that the Bush administration is afraid of tackling the structural root-causes of our sinking economy and believes that quick supply-side fixes are the answer to all of our economic problems.

Other Posts on the Politics of Offshore Drilling

Photo: dsearls via flickr under a Creative Commons license

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.
  • Stene

    Ingrid and others

    Anyone who believes that our government is still powered by the people has not been paying attention for the last hundred years. our politicians are motivated by those that get them elected. The corporations and the upper-class. After all, what have we as a people done to promote them in their campaigns. Do you honestly think that the American people donated over 2 million dollars to their respective candidates to keep them in the race. Think again about where your politicians loyalties lie.

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  • David

    Of course there's already offshore drilling out there by the Chinese but we'll get around to drilling there once the resources are tapped by a different country.

    700 million barrels of oil? If you dumped all of it on the market immediately you might spank around some speculators, but it's hardly enough to do much but get rid of the deterrent hostile countries have against shutting us off from oil completely. It's around a 30 day supply of oil for the US. Oh, what, you didn't know that's what it was for? It's a DETERRENT to keep oil producing countries from slamming the door on us, and it's our only insurance against foreign fuel tyranny since we refuse to use our own resources. Exxon is the 14th largest oil company in the WORLD. Yea, it might look huge by the numbers, but it's a bit player that can't control anything. Those of you that say the oil will hit the world market are correct, but what it allows us if it goes overseas is to have a great export that helps counter some of the dollar crippling imports we partake of now, and even that helps lower the price at the pump.


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  • Folks, the point is that oil supply peaked in 2005–and no matter where we drill, the price is going to go up and up and up. So it's crazy to chase after oil when the science and technology exist to get solar and wind-powered electric vehicles on the roads NOW. Please read the article referenced at the URL below–for the price of one month in Iraq, we could kiss oil goodbye forever.

  • Russel Rhea

    two or three things to consider here, one- Nazi Germany in WWII was blockaded by Allied forces, and was able to become FULLY energy independant in less than 36 months, in 1941 !!!! They did it mostly by synthesizing petrol from coal, something we have an abundance of, but are kept from using by tyhe enviroterrorists. If they accomplish that in 1942, why can't we in 2008 ??? We already sit on land locked pockets of oil that make the Saudis drool, but can't take them to market because congress blocks every attempt to drill for these, and to refine the supply. BOTH PARTIES are responsible for this quagmire, and party politics need to be nuked in favor of what is best for this country and American citizens. Two-increasing taxes NEVER improves the financial status of a nation. Ireland has cut its taxes back over the last 10 years, three times. Each cut back has INCREASED the revenue coming into the government, diminishing the national debt and eliminating the need to borrow capital for it's operating expenses. Their top tax rate is now 9% !!! Put more money into the hands of the poeple and the government flourishes-take more away and it fails. Three-the last time taxes were raised to the extent Mr O has proposed was in the 1930's, and any one who has studied American History knows about the Great Depression. Is that where we want to go economically ?!? Think, research, know truth, don't believe everything you are being fed.

  • Brett

    This is the very reason that I'm voting McCain in. Okay, the environment is a great thing, though we have the cleanest standards by far when it comes to oil evacuation. Even if that were not the case, how can we enjoy an environment when we are a bankrupt nation?

  • Dennis-

    Thanks for jumping in on this.

    Lest you forget, the original executive order banning new offshore drilling in certain locations came from Bush senior – a Republican. Is he one of the "obstructionists" you refer to?

    I'm of the opinion that we should not be naive enough to think that lifting the offshore oil ban will have any appreciable effect on gas prices for at least a decade. That is not to say I am outright opposed to it. We need to have an honest discussion about why oil prices are high and whether those increasing costs are worth paying.

    Finally, the 'taxes are the problem' argument is the primary reason we are in the economic funk we are currently tangled in. The dollar is tanking because we have borrowed trillions of dollars from China and Japan – money that will be repaid by our children and grandchildren.

  • 30 Years ago we were told it would take 10 years before we could get our oil to market. Had we made that wise decision then, we would not be in this fix today.

    But Congress and the crazy Left are not for the people of this country, they are selfserving polititions, nothing more.

    I say, and most Americans agree, Drill here, Drill NOW, Pay less, and use every possible means to get our Energy sources to the people. Start drilling off shore and watch the price drop.People are willing to make sacrifices if they see something positive being done by our government.

    You don't like outsourcing? You hav'nt seen anything yet, if we don't use our God given treasures.

    We are the United States Of America, and we are totally capable of being the greatest country in the world again.

    You want "change"? You better think twice before you touch that lever in November.The wrong change will spell disaster. If Congress does not act NOW, fire the whole bunch! We the people have the say so, they work for us.

  • Dennis

    The same old arguement from the same old obstructionists have held us back from utilizing our own natural resourses for the last 40 years. The agruement that the impact will take years has withstood the test of time. IF Clinton had not vetoed offshore drilling we would have the increased domestic production NOW. We need it all, NOW! Yes to new technologies, but we will be powered primarily by fossil fuel for at least the next 10 years. Obama mentioned $12.00/gal gasoline and we will get there. The price of gasoline more than tripled during the Carter admin. Once elected, BHO will tax the Oil company profits and they will raise the cost of gas to you and I to pay for this increased cost. TAXES are the problem, not the solution. Drill Here! Drill NOW! Pay less!