That is the question of my blog this week. Watching Rudy Giuliani speak at the Republican Nation Convention last Wednesday and listening to thousands of people chant, "Drill, baby, drill," I realized how confused our country is on this, well, confusing issue. Somehow we arrived at a place where Republicans and Democrats are more divided than ever, and over issues like offshore drilling, which had once been off limits by both parties. I believe people are misinformed, because if the facts were understood, the choice would be clear, no matter what your party affiliation.
The major misconception I've observed is that offshore drilling will lower high gas prices. The fact is that if these projects were to start today, it would take years before new refineries would affect the market...if ever. Not to mention the amount of oil that could be produced is tiny in comparison with the amount that is produced worldwide. And let's face it-these refineries really can't start producing today, because realistically it would take years to build a new refinery and.... large amounts of money.
Since there seems to be a consensus with both parties that we have a problem with our oil addiction, why not get over that addiction by investing that money into developing alternative fuel infrastructures and converting more cars to run on alternative fuels? Terry Tamminen, Executive Director of the Climate Policy Program of the New America Foundation, says that just 20% of the cost of the current war in Iraq could have completed an alternative fuel infrastructure in our country and converted the majority of cars to run on alternative fuel. Even former president of Shell's U.S. operation, John Hofmeister, said, "The internal combustion is a great invention that has served us well for a century, but it is time for us to move on" (www.newsweek.com/id/142130).
I believe the majority of the population wants this to happen. A recent event illustrates this shift. Last week my husband and I were in an accident which totaled our car. This dumped us into the car market, which I learned is a very strange market at the moment: Priuses are in the "luxury" car price range, the Kelly bluebook value for a Honda Civic has actually increased, and the fun new 2009 Honda Fits are so hot that no dealer can hold them through a weekend (and the asking price is $4,000 over the regular price!). Meanwhile, I had an exchange with someone today who said that he wants to buy a Suburban because "they're so cheap right now and the money [he] will save will just go towards gas" (he'll still find he loses out big time with those gas bills!). Who would have thought 10 years ago that a tiny hatchback would be a hot commodity and that one could hardly give a Suburban away? There was also an article in the LA Times yesterday that called the '94 Geo Metro a "dream machine" because of its fuel efficiency, and stated that "the '92 Civic hatchback gets 60 mpg." Interestingly enough, the Geo Metro was made by the now struggling General Motors-if only they had realized what was good for the environment was good for them.
The car market is reflecting what people want and need: fuel efficient, reliable cars. If we begin offshore drilling, we will be backtracking and only fueling our problem (pardon the pun). In Senator Obama's acceptance speech for the Democratic Presidential Nomination he claimed that in 10 years our country will no longer be dependant on foreign oil. I agree this dependence needs to end, but I would like to take it a step further and ask that in 10 years our cars no longer be dependent on oil. Period. I would like to believe that saving money, preserving our health by eliminating cancer and asthma causing toxins, and protecting the planet so our children can survive are issues both Democrats and Republicans can agree on.