John McCain was previously opposed to off shore drilling (thus being in agreement with the first President Bush). He now supports it and is pushing for it as one solution to the high price of gas. Naturally, the oil companies are behind this.
Those opposed to off shore drilling point out an obvious fact: oil companies already hold leases to 68 million acres of land and are not drilling there. It seems reasonable to expect the oil companies to start drilling on the land they already control rather than granting them yet more drilling rights. To use an analogy, a person should finish what is on her plate before going up to the buffet to fill yet another plate.
It is, however, smart strategy on part of the oil companies to use the current gas prices to gain access to even more leases. While they are not drilling on 68 million acres now, they know that oil is a finite resource and they will need to keep finding new sources. Hence, they want to use today’s “crisis” to frighten American into allowing them to grab more leases. Without the high price of gas as a motivating factor, most people (including John McCain) seem to have been opposed to off shore drilling.
The question that arises is whether the oil companies should be given access to opportunities for new off shore drilling. On one hand, the obvious answer is that the companies should exploit the 68 million acres they already have available before they start asking for more. On the other hand, it has been contended that the news that the oil companies can drill (someday) off shore will have an impact on oil and gas prices now.
Of course, granting offshore drilling rights does entail certain costs. First, there are the serious environmental impacts of off shore drilling. Second, there is the fact that using resources to set up off shore drilling platforms takes resources away from developing non-oil energy sources. Third, if the availability of of shore oil lowers the price of gas and oil, this will take the pressure off to conserve and develop alternative fuel sources. To use an analogy, it would be like telling an addict who is quiting because her stash is running low that a new supply is on the way. Just as the addict is likely to go back to her old ways, the American people will mostly go back to their old ways once the immediate pain of high prices is relieved.
Overall, off shore drilling still seems like a bad idea.