Americans are still hurting because of the high cost of gas. In California, we're still paying almost a dollar more per gallon than we were one year ago today. In response, people are driving less and cutting out travel, which has put the squeeze on our state's tourism industry.
Those engaged in the national debate about energy overlook these local impacts. For the past month the debate has been about more offshore drilling when we really need to be focusing on solutions that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
More drilling just can't produce enough to make a real difference. With less than three percent of the world's oil, the United States could drill every national park, wildlife refuge, and coastline and still need to import 60 percent of the oil we use–and that's just based on current energy demand. Furthermore, drilling won't deliver a drop of new oil for at least ten years.
We also know that more drilling doesn't mean lower gas prices–because we've already tried. The number of new offshore drilling permits has tripled since 2001- and yet we're also paying triple what we were in 2001. And Big Oil is enjoying record profits.
Additionally, the oil and gas industry already has access to more drilling than it knows what to do with. Oil companies are sitting on 68 million acres of American oil-producing land that they could have started drilling yesterday, already more than can be drilled effectively. The industry should responsibly drill in those areas before we hand over more of the public's land and coasts.
What we need is to get moving with technology that already exists, and to stop allowing oil future traders to inflate the price of crude.
Tourists flock to California because of our gorgeous coasts, beautiful ocean views, pristine wilderness and vibrant cities. Few will want to stare at a vista of oil rigs when they visit or take a drive along our coasts. Then, there is the possibility of their seeing an ugly oil spill instead of clear blue water. Is this what you really want for California?
Yes, it is time to invest in clean, homegrown energy sources. Yes, the oil industry already have millions of acres on which to drill. Yes, if they begin now, within the next 5 to 10 years we will have more oil produced in the United States. Having said that, my hope when Congress takes up the issue, the debate will be moved from drilling to the real one of greed by the oil industry. When this happens, all Americans can take a vacation from high gas prices.
Linda Love is the Board President of California Consumers United–a California based consumer protection coalition established to protect consumers from predatory and unfair business practices and to advocate for regulations and laws that protect and advance the rights of consumers in California.