The Deep Sea Is Finally A Factor In A Presidential Election

Unfortunately not in the way I hoped. You may already know this but it is worth reiterating because it seems to keep coming back to the surface. McCain and Bush are recommending a plan for offshore drilling.

Once again this will not make a difference, especially where we are feeling it most–in our pocket books. First, the current supply of drilling ships will put a seven year hiatus on any offshore oil making it to the market. Second, our offshore oil reserves are insufficient to meet our consumption for more than a handful of years. These are not my opinions, not a liberal or conservative view, but rather fact. X divided by Y equals Z. It’s math.

Now I will admit I am no huge supporter of Obama, falling in with supporters feels like a cult. Any minute I will need to shave my head and don a bright colored rob. My candidate fell out a long time ago, but I have a habit of liking candidates with no chance of winning. That being said, I am definitely not a fan of McCain either or just about anybody else in the Republican Party currently (although my governor does seem tolerable). It’s not that I am Democrat but rather I am not Republican.

I just don’t get why anyone thinks that an energy plan addressing supply rather than demand will work. This is why today Obama may be winning me over, but hey he had my vote already. In what is being called his first “negative ad”, Obama makes it clear he wants to reduce demand by focusing on technology. Sounds good to me.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


18 Replies to “The Deep Sea Is Finally A Factor In A Presidential Election”

  1. Although Obama is definitely your best hope for a president that will pay environmental issues some reasonable attention, you’ll have to plan on applying as much pressure as feasible to him – and to congress – after the election.

    Beyond that – I do not believe there is a widespread understanding of the fact that the supply of oil is (a) finite, and (b) close to peak supply rate. On the contrary – people want to believe there’s plenty of oil.

  2. CR- It sounds like you are ready to take another look at Ron Paul. He’s hosting a march on Washington this Saturday, and by the end of the day we should know if he’ll accept a write-in vote. Here are the details: http://www.revolutionmarch.com/

    Regards,

    RS McClain

  3. Rather than focusing on petrol/biofuel addiction, I focused on healthy human commuting/transportation alternatives and came up with Traix, which I mention briefly at my other blog (as an option, not an argument) here:
    Traix

  4. Rather than focusing on petrol/biofuel addiction, I focused on healthy human commuting/transportation alternatives and came up with Traix, which I mention briefly at my other blog (as an option, not an argument) here:
    Traix
    (oops, missed the “)

  5. Yep, I bike six miles each way to work, everyday in every weather but icy roads.

    I have a 10 mile limit to where I live in relation to where I work. Which is feasible for small college towns where I have lived for the last several years, but I can see how this is not feasible in larger cities. But then they have public transport.

  6. Craig, you’re setting up straw men to knock down with weak arguments.

    1. We shouldn’t drill offshore because the *current* supply of deepwater drillships are booked out for seven years. This is static thinking — think dynamically instead. Deepwater driller Transocean Offshore has dozens of ships on order, some of which will be available in 2009. Also, not all the contracts will continue at the same site. If a firm doesn’t find something in Field X, they always move to Field Y (such as the Destin Dome off of Florida, a proven reserve).

    2. Further, “if something’s not going to have an immediate benefit, why do it?” You seem to say. Then why go to university? You won’t have a positive economic impact until you’re 18, 22, 26, 32, etc. Why get a PhD in oceanography? The benefit to society isn’t immediate….

    3. The amount of oil will only be “a couple of years” of supply. I don’t have figures for possible supply from continental shelf drilling, but using ANWR data, the argument is the same. Even if ANWR is “only” 1-2 MM bbl/day, acc. to Cambridge Energy Research, it *will* have an impact. US demand is 75-85 MM a day. Growing that by 3%/year for the 10 years before ANWR is on-line means 100 MM bpd in demand. So ANWR is “only” 1% of daily demand. If that doesn’t matter, why does oil spike so much when Hurricane Katrina stops production of “only” 1% of daily demand for “only” 6 weeks? The fact is that a capitalist will always add supply if marginal price is greater than marginal cost. At $140 oil, MP>MC, even discounted a decade into the future.

    4. Technology is the superior way to solve our energy problems. Again, a straw man. Only the most wildly optimistic forecasters expect any technology to overtake conventional hydrocarbons in under 20 years. It’s not OK to bet the ranch on technological advance, at the expense of an obvious helpful factor staring us in the face.

    All that said, I think we probably agree that some very obvious things are being ignored due to entrenched special interests. If we just increased our auto fuel economy by 1 mile/gallon in aggregate, we’d save ourselves an entire ANWR in production. But we can’t force the automakers or the driving public to upgrade their cars, or drive slower, or invest in better road systems to relieve fuel-wasting traffic…..

  7. Shawn,
    Interesting and thoughtful arguments but I have to disagree. I don’t think what I presented are “strawmen” whatsoever. I fail to get excited in investing billions of dollars of time and effort on reserves that will last a 5-7 years, 5-7 years from now. What I am saying it the lack of immediacy combined with the lack of any appreciable supply makes the whole plan of offshore reserves a poor answer to any of situations. Keep in mind here that I am not pulling the 7 year estimate to get supply to market out thin air either. The estimate is from the industry themselves and represents a ‘sunny day’ scenario. Even without the limitation to drilling, how long do you think it takes to build an offshore oil rig? Hibernia, an extreme example of course, off Newfoundland came in at around 10 years from design to online status. As far as waiting for technology to help, why not promote existing technology. Even promotion of habit changes. Policy reform as incentives could make a large impact.

  8. The reasons we have to drill more, drill offshore, and drill ANWR are simple:

    1. Investors on the oil industry (read: Bush family) will make lots of money off it.
    2. Oil development infrastructure companies (read: Halliburton) will get fantastically lucrative contracts, and make billions in just a few years in payouts and government subsidies. In fact, there’s no reason to have competitive bidding of the contracts, or even solicit bids from any company besides Halliburton since they are already the President’s favorite.
    3. It’ll crush the environmental movement since this is their cause celebre. Just think of how good it will be for business to not have to deal with environmentalists (or even the environment as a business consideration)! Free at last! Free at last!

    Just thought you’d like to know the real logic behind drilling up ANWR, our coastlines, or anywhere else we can find.

    It will help the American government realize its true purpose: to prop up megacorporations and enrich their CEOs and biggest stockholders. We’ll become the America our patriot founding fathers envisioned!

    Be a patriot and Drill!

  9. Kevin, does your daily commute happen in 95 degree weather? Can you arrive at work dripping wet and smelling like you just participated in a triathalon.

    This is what a ten mile bicycle commute means during the summer for most people in the southern United States. Even a one mile commute will produce similar results. Unfortunately, most people do not have access to a gym within walking distance of work where they can get showered and changed. A towel bath in the bathroom is not an option either because of the extreme amount of sweating involved. I’m talking about drenching sweat that soaks through all of your clothing.

    I tried to live without a car. I really, really tried, but in Houston, public transportation is so poor you can be an hour and a half late or more if you miss your bus. Especially if you are, like I was, a cross commuter. One who works in the suburbs and lives downtown. Commuter buses generally don’t run like you think they might. For every 5 buses heading into town in the morning, there might only be one heading out of town.

    I lost a job because of that. Now I’m back driving again, and unless I can find a way to make my commutes more reasonable, I’ll continue driving. I don’t like it either. High gas prices, high insurance rates, maintenance, risk of collisions. Owning a car sucks.

  10. It occurs to me that my comment may seem overly harsh. If so, please accept my apologies. My experiment in a car-free lifestyle has left me a bit bitter.

    It was not a short-lived or half-hearted attempt either. I went two full years and worked really hard at it. That made the failure even more hard to take.

    I fully support the idea of reducing demand for petrochemicals. I think that really is the only way forward. I support higher density development and more eco-friendly development, especially regarding urban sprawl. I think newer, better technologies for commuting is also part of the answer. If given a better opportunity to live without a car, I’ll take it in a heart beat.

  11. Bruce, not overly harsh at all! I am fully aware that most people can’t do what I do. And yes, I do it 90 degree 90% humidity weather every summer. I don’t care if I arrive in a pool sweat. Maybe other people do, but I don’t have an “office” job or have to keep appearances for my job either. I also ride my bike in snowfall and thunderstorms. We own one car and drive on the order 5-8K miles/year.

    But the real question is how much do gas prices have to rise before public transit becomes feasible in most cities. Given better and more affordable public transport options, hopefully running off renewable energy sources, will people flock to them? Why isn’t there a public outcry for this? In cities where there is an outcry for public transit, why is it not implemented?

  12. Bruce how bout an electric bike or even a scooter? Less sweaty???

    Look on the bright side …you roads aren’t covered in snow and ice for 3/4 of the year!

  13. These people talk about using “public transport” as if such sustems were both wonderful and grow on trees. In fact the capital investments to build them are prohibitive, and their operations invariably become huge tax-eaters, government tarbabies of the first water, often for very little traffic. They never seem to lie on a route people want to take. Public transport systems should charge fares which reflect their true costs, but never do, lest such knowledge stop politicians from buildng more of them. So the riders leave most of the cost to the long-suffering taxpayer, and the money contributed to this rathole could be going for new air traffic control equipment, repairs on interstate bridges, and any number of other things infinitely more necessary and useful and rational. Both Amtrak and local public transit organizations seem to be employers of last rssort for members of the underclass, too, and generously support their trade union dues, which in turn has become indispensable to legions of union leaders, subverting the legislated intentions for the grants and appropriations. If you ever should see a public transit system funded by a for-profit group, which makes money and pays taxes, fine. But I doubt if there are any such remaining in the United States.

  14. LOL! PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION A COMMIE CONSPIRACY!!!!!

    Protect the poor suffering tax-payer from GOVERNMENT plots to spend their money on something that might increase their quality of life!!!

  15. I’m a long-time user of public transportation in Boston and didn’t own a car until I was 40, so I feel qualified to comment on Larry’s string of half-truths. To keep it short, I’ll only answer one: So the riders leave most of the cost to the long-suffering taxpayer . . .

    The “riders” are also the “taxpayers.” The cost of public transportation, like the cost of roads, schools, hospitals, police and fire departments, is spread out across the population because these things are public goods that make society function. The results of not funding public transportation lead to greater waste and stress for people generally. BruceH found that out trying to do the environmentally sound thing on his own, without the support of a robust public transportation infrastructure.

    Yes, life is different without a car, but it is manageable in a dense city with many transportation lines. When transportation exists, businesses will respond by locating along the lines. The neighborhood densities can also support lots of smaller, independent businesses like groceries that specialize in ethnic products.

    The 1950s America, suburban and car-dependent, wasn’t ordained by god. It was the result of particular social and tax policies. The people can choose these policies based on what works better for the community. That is democracy.

  16. Good points Rugosa! Thanks for coming to my rescue.

    I wonder if in a city with good public transit, like DC, Boston, Chi-Town, San Fran or NYC. The costs of roadwork and maintenance is comparable or exceeds the costs of public transit maintenance. For a car commuter to denigrate public transit users is hypocritical being that their tax money is still being used to get them to work too. In fact, I rarely drive AND I don’t take public transit. Therefore my taxes are being donated for the benefit of everyone else. I personally like to think my taxes go to science education, conservation and poverty alleviation only. Its my fantasy, let me have it!

  17. Sign me up as a proud member of the underclass. ;)

    I take public transit straight from my apartment complex to work everyday. I am very fortunate to live in a town where public and campus transit (campus buses are running on biodiesel, for better or worse) combined cover pretty much every major residential area, campus building, research laboratory and shopping center. A loooot of scientists ride the bus with me in the morning. :) Quite a few people at my work bike everyday, but we are fortunate to have shower facilities available. My boss just got a really sweet electric motorcycle-type thing. It’s pretty badass.

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