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What Offshore Oil Drilling Means To Me

This has been quite a week for proponents of offshore oil drilling. It's as if last week's Jim Cramer Today Show appearance lit a fuse. Or more likely, as if Jim Cramer is privy to major pols' backroom strategizing sessions.

Both Bush and McCain have called for an end to the moratorium on offshore drilling on our coasts. Joining the call was Florida Governor Charlie Crist—who forged bonds with enviros recently when he called for an end to the construction of new coal-fired power plants in his state (following Earthjustice's successful advocacy against the largest proposed coal-fired power plant in the country, planned for the edge of the Everglades).

Four-dollar a gallon gas is the ostensible reason for all this talk. The funny thing is, these guys have to know there aren't enough offshore drill ships to go around. Which is why drilling costs have quadrupled in the past six years.

So I ask myself, what's the real agenda here? Besides the obvious get-McCain-elected agenda?

Profits, of course. But in terms of policy, my guess is the Arctic. These guys have talked about the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge this week. But they know Americans are attached to the Refuge and so that idea won't play. Besides, ANWR is onshore. I think offshore + ANWR = the Arctic Ocean.

They see the upside to global warming: melting Arctic sea ice means new Arctic Ocean oil fields to exploit and new sea routes for transporting the oil to global markets. That's why Russia planted its flag on the sea floor at the North Pole and why all the nations on the Arctic are scrambling to claim their slices of the sea.

And that's why the Interior Department delayed listing the polar bear as endangered, I mean, "threatened". The delay provided time to sell leases for offshore Arctic oil exploration.

They know the oil won't dent prices at the pump, that it'll take at least ten years to bring the oil to market, and that all the oil in America won't last more than five years even if we use every last drop. But they also know that ten years (or more) from now, when they finally market Arctic oil, the price per barrel today will look to us then like a two-cent stamp looks to us now.