Is domestic drilling back in style?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels are all the rage, but it can be safely said that when it comes to energy fashion, oil is still the new black. Purveyors of this much sought-after couture largely assemble in the design house of OPEC. And they’re previewing next season’s collections at prices that should continue to bring in sweet crude revenues – June statistics from the Department of Energy predicted a $430 billion annual haul for the petroleum-exporting countries, a 27 percent hike from 2004. Unfortunately, our style is cramped by the “oil is evil” hue and cry, sung even as we all crank $50 worth of unleaded into our cars. We consume more than 20 million barrels per day, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. We produce about 7.7 million barrels per day. To bridge the gap, the top five we buy from are Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. Three are OPEC members. And Venezuela is under the iron grip of invasion-paranoid Hugo Chavez, who just pulled South America into an oil agreement intended to lock out the U.S.-backed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. (As a matter of sheer principle, I’d rather push my car than pump at Venezuelan-owned Citgo.) Many politicians have cited disruption in the U.S. oil supply brought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita as reason to increase our reach into proven petroleum reserves, launch exploration in unproven reserves and build more refineries – or at least spread our oil industry beyond the storm-whipped Gulf of Mexico. We’ve had reason for years, though, to get our heads out of the well and kick-start a new era of petroleum independence. Legislation moving through Congress, brought by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Stockton, would end the offshore drilling moratorium and shift control over drilling leases within 125 miles of shore from Congress to the states. According to Oil and Gas Journal, the United States’ 21.9 billion barrels of proved oil reserves put it at 11th highest in the world. California has the fourth-largest reserves in the nation, behind Texas, Louisiana and Alaska. And unproven reserves hold great potential. According to the Minerals Management Service of the Department of the Interior, the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf region’s unproved reserves have an estimated 1.3 billion barrels of oil in 25 fields. Pombo’s legislation is predictably decried by environmental groups and the NOMBs – Not Off My Beach. “Oil exploration threatens not only our environment, but also our coastal economy and multibillion dollar tourism industry,” Controller Steve Westly said in a June press release. Consider, though, the top producing oil fields in District No. 1 – encompassing most of Southern California – of the state’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources: Wilmington, Inglewood, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Beverly Hills. A few tourist areas in the list that aren’t doing too shabby despite platforms and pumpjacks. Environmentalists have a knack for painting pro-drilling citizens and legislators as miscreants who would just as soon dump a quart of Penzoil on a shorebird’s head. Instead, it’s a reasoned cost-benefit analysis. Technological advancements make drilling safer, including directional drilling that can reach from shore to underwater. And more than 1,200 inspections were carried out on Pacific OCS facilities – with 23 oil and gas platforms in the region – by the Minerals Management Service in 2004, not to mention state inspections and constant regulation. Gray Davis in 2002 called offshore exploration “attempts to exploit California’s coastal resources.” Using our oil is not exploitation, but tapping the energy that Mother Nature has graciously socked away for us. Though billions have been spent thus far on alternative fuel research, nothing has been developed yet to replace petroleum. Experts predict it will be decades upon decades before we’re weaned off oil. And in that time, global demand is projected to skyrocket, fueled by growing economies in countries such as China and India. We continue to be held hostage by crunches that occur with every geopolitical hiccup from war to storms to Venezuela’s Hurricane Hugo and his $100-a-barrel threats. Enough. Let’s drill. Because when it comes to energy, I’ll take my basic black made in America. Bridget Johnson writes for the Daily News. E-mail her at [email protected]last_img

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