Monday, May 10, 2010

The Politics of Oil Spills

We have some new national polling coming out tomorrow on offshore drilling. The most astounding number from the poll? 28% of Republicans said the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made them more likely to support drilling off the coast to an equal 28% who said it made them less likely to be supportive. 44% said it made no difference to them and that's understandable, but why would an oil spill make you more supportive of drilling?

Believe it or not there's bad news for Sarah Palin within those numbers. She gets 17% of the GOP 2012 vote from the 'oil spills are good' crowd, well behind Newt Gingrich's 31%. We theorized a couple weeks ago that a Gingrich run might hurt Palin's support with the absolute most conservative folks in the Republican Party, and these numbers would seem to provide some more evidence of that.

We'll have the drilling- and Obama's latest approval- numbers tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I promise you that those people were joking! I might have answered the same. They just wanted to reiterate that they support it anyway.

Christian Liberty said...

Hydrocarbon fuels (oil, natural gas, coal), as well as nuclear fuels, are simply the most efficient fuels in existence on planet earth. All "green" fuels are, as a matter of basic chemistry and thermodynamics, inferior to oil, nuclear, coal, and natural gas.

Since energy is the most critical ingredient in maintaining a modern economy, once there is an economic shock that threatens to increase prices and constrain supply, it becomes ALL THE MORE IMPORTANT to increase the ability to produce more oil and increase energy supplies.

Plus, as moral issue, it is moral to expand liberty, including the freedom to produce the most reliable and efficient supply of energy. There's simply no case to be made for constraining our ability to produce reliable energy.

lovable liberal said...

There might be one rationale that's not insane or infantile: "Now that it's all ruined anyway, why not drill more so that I least I can run my battleship-sized suburban assault vehicle a little more cheaply."

Really, though, I think this is just spite against environmentalists, emotionally about as mature as a two-year-old's tantrum.

eightnine2718281828mu56 said...

Those more inclined to drill are the hard-core Rove wing of the party; every failure is presented as a victory.

And if you question their characterization, you're an anti-American pro-Iran sympathizer.

'Drill, baby, drill' was never targeted at high-information voters.

thomas said...

A oil spill disaster that threatens marine life and the economies from Mexico to Florida (as a start) makes people MORE likely to support oil spills? I suppose this makes sense only if you thought the proper response to the disaster of the bush Jr admin was to vote for him in 2004.

John Emerson said...

28% is exactly Kungfu Monkey's crazification factor from several years ago.

Marvin Marks said...

so there we have it "conservative" is now synonymous with "bat sh*t crazy" ....

Anonymous said...

I can think of one good reason to see the oil spill as a reason to support off-shore drilling.

Oil is a necessity, and drilling- somewhere on Earth- is an inevitability. The US has some of the world's strictest safety regulations. Therefore, a catastrophic spill is less likely (although obviously not impossible) on US territory as opposed to overseas.

If you care about the Earth, and not just your own back yard, then maybe American drilling is a good thing. I'd much rather put the job in the hands of experienced and accountable multinationals like ExxonMobil and BP than have it given to a local warlord or profiteer.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous - I don't think the word "reason" means what you think it means. Why, even if you're correct that regs are stricter here, would the spill make you more likely to support offshore drilling than you were before the spill? You just gave a generic reason to support domestic drilling, without regard to a spill.

Anonymous said...

They're just hippie haters and they have to oppose everything hippies support no matter how reasonable it is.

Moe Lane said...

What commenter #1 said. And see commenters #3 through #7 as People's Exhibits A though E as to why it might be thought necessary to drive that point home.

So... that basically works out to 72% of the country doesn't think that the recent oil spill merits shutting down our oil production, huh? Interesting, in a completely unsurprising sort of way.

Seitz said...

Christian Liberty doesn't sound like a very smart person, so let me be the one to point out that we can't actually "produce" fossil fuels. We can only extract them. That's why they're considered "finite" resources. And the more we pull out of the ground, the less supply we leave, and the more expensive it gets before one considers externalities (like oil spills, for example).

Wind, sunlight, and other "green fuels" not so much. The wind is going to blow, and the sun is going to shine.

Since energy is the most critical ingredient in maintaining a modern economy, we should find ways to use it more efficiently, and produce it from a source that isn't going to eventually run out.

Christian Liberty said...

Seitz, the MOST EFFICIENT fuels of all are natural gas, oil, and nuclear. No "green" fuel even comes close. This is just basic thermodynamic and chemical fact. Denying this shows that you are letting your crazy ideology get in the way of sound science. Sound science clearly shows that the best fuels, the most efficient energy sources, come from oil and natural gas and nuclear. Why settle for anything less? Why limit the freedom of energy producers and constrain the prosperity we could achieve by extract the best sources of energy (oil and natural gas and nuclear)?

robert said...

Unfortunately the people polled were ignorant and the extraction offshore in other nations would have included a redundant safety system, which BP did not desire to spend 500k to deploy. This is not the first 'blow out' to happen. It was dumb and now tragic and we'll all pay for this as we are with the wars in the mideast.

Long past time to forget the arguments from the extractors. We must conserve and deploy alterntives such as solar and wind. Such utilizations will also contribute to independence and good shephardship of our nation. Also good for employment. Won't be shipping all the dollars to those who will abuse us or war on us (or both).

Look at the record.. Exxon, Chevron, Texaco, BP.. these folks could care less about maintaining anything. They've got a 'world market' hungering for energy and double the price every four years.. they're in good order.. they're happy to pay whatever.. it's cost plus game.

DBL said...

I won't try to explain what other people are thinking but a disaster usually makes people find the flaws and correct them. Ships don't hit icebergs any more. We haven't had any Three Mile Islands. The levees aren't going to break again in New Orleans. Every time someone has tried to blow up an airplane they've been stopped.

After the Exxon Valdez accident an oil tanker spilling crude was one of the less likely possibilities because they knew what to expect. Here they clearly didn't. Now they understand what causes a problem like this and they'll know how to prevent it. History suggests that disaster like this should encourage us to drill more.

Imperial said...

I find it so silly that conservatives still support Newt Gingrich. His personal life has hardly been conservative, and his policies do even less than Sarah Palin to support limited government.

Anonymous said...

"So... that basically works out to (pull some number out of ass here)% of the country doesn't think that the recent oil spill merits shutting down our oil production, huh?"

Er, deep sea oil drilling does not equal "oil production".

John said...

So producing energy to grow the economy is a MORAL issue? That's a bit of a laugh coming from someone whose screen name indicates that he/she is a Christian. Perhaps you can enlighten us heathens and point to the passages in the Gospels where Jesus talks about the higher morality of prosperity. Perhaps it was just after the bit about the camel passing through the eye of the needle - or maybe when he tells his young follower to "sell all you have and give the money to the poor." Your Christianity seems to be nothing more than an excuse for hypocrisy and greed...

Marvin Marks said...

Seriously... what does "conservative" mean anymore besides willfully ignorant? It just seems to have no other meaning. They pick and choose when "financial conservatism" is important to them (for example they don't seem to care how much money the military wastes) ... they pick and choose when the Constitution is important to them (they don't seem to care about that bit about the separation of church and state or that the census is in the 3rd paragraph...)

It means nothing but willfully ignorant. When someone calls themselves a "conservative" all I hear is "I don't care about facts or reason. The things I believe make no sense and are based on nothing but I *believe* them anyway. Just because."

larryv said...

@John (re: Christians and their right-wing attitudes)

I always thought it was incredibly ironic that if Jesus were alive today, he would be a raging liberal.

Anonymous said...

Christian Liberty (?), "Efficiency" does not include all related costs associated with extracting carbon or generating nuclear energy. Also, "efficiency" does not mean clean and renewable. Thermodynamics don't govern society and economics. That is physics. Life is more complicated than a simple equation when you factor in the tremendous physical, economic and societal costs of fossil fuels. As for increasing "liberty", the Magical Free Market has proven that it cannot exist without increasing governmental regulations. Lastly, you say the US has "some" of the best regulation, however, you know that other countries require additional regulations that the US does not.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Here's why people might answer "more" -

1. Emphatic support.
2. An observation that the more dangerous deep sea drilling that the BP rig was doing, was only necessary because drilling in the shallower water was frowned upon.

Just sayin'.

Alex said...

John: these aren't just the 28% C-factor. They're the craziest 28% of the crazy 28% - the seventh sons of the seventh sons.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like "Christian Liberty" has found one piece of science and is clinging to it for dear life, in spite of all the other equally relevant issues involved in oil production.

Christian Liberty said...

Oil and coal are still the most successful sources of American energy in use. "Clean" or "renewable" sources are uneconomical without the burdensome regulations against superior hydrocarbon fuels and heavy subsidization of these inefficient pet projects.

America's prosperity comes from free use of and production of coal, oil, gas, and nuclear fuels.

Anonymous said...

@Christian Liberty:

No. Just no.

Hydrocarbon fuels may be more efficient, but they are horrible for the environment (which we need to survive), and one day, will run out. We'll see how economical they are then.

By the time the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, humanity will be long extinct.

Johnny Gray said...

@ Christian Liberty
Your assertion that hydrocarbons are efficient is simply groundless. What's more, you neglect the simple point of a frame of reference for efficiency, which is to say that you have neglected how they are efficient; if you're suggesting that they are "efficient" in their impact on the environment through carbon pollution, then you are obviously mistaken. What concerns me more, is that you have argued in a way that is fundamentally flawed, and yet went unremarked because of its rhetorical appearance.

What's more, the rest of your post is simply foolhardy. "Moral issue to expand liberty, including the freedom to produce the most reliable and efficient supply of energy"? "Simply no case to be made for constraining our ability to produce energy"? WTF? We constrain it every day, in the face of real concerns and consequences of our actions. Which is say, these activities can be seen to have large effects that are unlikely to be internalized. WHICH IS THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT!!

Yes, hydrocarbons can be argued to be efficient. But these arguments usually consist of financial efficiencies, and derived from the relation of their energetic qualities to the costs of obtaining them. Environmental costs are, in fact, real costs. In the case of the deep horizon rig, the most obvious ones will be the loss of the fishing season, and the likely loss of the fisheries themselves.

"Louisiana seafood production has an estimated economic impact of $2.4 billion. Production of about 23 percent of that amount has been temporarily shut down by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration because of the oil spill." -(
This is a lower bound estimate of the short-term impact of the spill on the fishing economy alone (which is only a portion of the markets damaged by the spill), amounting to around $500 million dollars. The long term implications are likely to vastly exceed this amount, and have compounded effects throughout the economy over the next few generations and possibly beyond. Clearly, there should be constraints to protect these activities and their value. Does this mean that all oil drilling should be stopped? Or even just all deep-sea offshore drilling? Nope; it means that they should be properly evaluated and weighed in relation to their costs (including the unresolved, un-internalized consequences of their actions on other industries).

Tom P. said...

If someone was stupid enough to ask me if oil spills made me support drilling more I would have said, "Of course. Let's drill lots more."

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'd be in favor of "experienced and accountable multinationals" drilling for oil, while we transition to clean energy. Now, if only we could find some.

Evidently, ExxonMobil and BP are not them.

Therefore, I support transitioning to clean energy ASAP.

Michael Dohrn said...

I think you all are mis-perceiving what Christian Liberty is saying. The crux here seems to come down to "efficient" production of energy. He is not saying that fossil fuels burn cleanly, or that they are renewable. There is also discrepancy in the definition of "efficient".

What Christian means by efficient, I think, is how can we get the most bang for our buck, right now. All of the alternatives have major, major hurdles from still-required technological advances (solar) to competition for farm waste (biomass), to a dearth of equipment and unwillingness to mine raw materials (wind), not to mention related infrastructure to bring the power to market, educational infrastructure to train people to do these things, and so on. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy already have these things.

I don't disagree that fossil fuels are harmful, and I think our smartest bet would be to follow France face forward into the nuclear age. These are risks we can manage, the environmental downshot is more considerably manageable at some point (dispersing radiation from waste is probably relatively simpler than making oil or coal).

I hate the term "greenwashing" but it seems awfully easy to let a concern for the environment cause one to be blind to the immediate needs of others, like wanting to reduce oil and coal consumption before having any real, viable alternatives in place that aren't going to (somehow) further bankrupt us.

To reiterate, one of the biggest benefits that fossil and nuclear energies have at this time is that their infrastructure is already a sunk cost, which therefore means a lower cost to start delivering energy.

dim said...

The oil spill in the gulf is fast becoming the turning point for a lot of Americans

Americans...even some conservatives.. are starting to question our dependence and addiction to oil and the "Drill, Baby, Drill" mantra.

In California both Republican candidates for governor have switch from “Drill, Baby, Drill” to putting a stop to further offshore drilling. Even ultra conservative Pozner is feeling the heat as the worst environmental disaster in US history starts to wash on shore.
The once pro drilling Republican governor Arnold (what’s his last name) now supports a ban on offshore oil drilling
And polls of Americans in general now show that support for offshore drilling has plunged by 20 points just in the last 3 weeks.
This has sparked new interest in Climate Change Legislation

My guess is that the disastrous effects of this spill will continue to covert many "status quo" Americans into "environmentalist".

Things can only get worse as the oil from the worst environmental disaster in US history washes up on shore and images of dead and dying wildlife starts to make it to our TV sets.

I was a fence sitter. I bought the line that new technology had finally made offshore drilling safe.
But the fact that this disaster was caused by human error, poor decision making and equipment failure have convinced me that no technology can save us from another disaster like this. There may be safe technology but if human beings make will not save us.

Let’s get off the oil bandwagon once and for all. We are just polluting our own environment, threatening our own livelihoods,and killing our own wildlife.
There are much safer and cleaner forms of energy that need to be developed that don't require us to drill thousands of feet under the ocean where an accident can be difficult to fix.
There are much quicker ways to cut down on our addiction to oil. Conservation has been practiced in Europe and Japan for years. They consume, on average, 1/3 the energy we do. They drive more fuel efficient cars, take more public transportation, even walk and ride bicycles more than Americans.

The age of an overweight American stuck in traffic in a 6000 lb polluting internal combustion engine SUV is coming to a close and we all need to move on into the 21st century

stevonjohn said... has a Eco friendly solution to clean up the tragedy British Petroleum has created, please watch the video animation: and pass this along to as many people as you know.

One person can still make a difference in this world, is that simple interactions have a rippling effect. Each time this gets pass along, the hope in cleaning our planet is passed on

Drivers Ed Georgia said...

It's clear that Oil spill happened due to BP workers neglectfulness and so in my opinion due to some ones neglectfulness we do not need to stop the drilling but need to punish those persons who do such acts and try to minimize the human errors by implementing a strict law, so that we can avoid future spills.

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