"Drill, baby. Drill!" is a lie

Posted on September 11, 2008


During the DNC, I had the opportunity to sit in on a climate messaging discussion with several VIPs from various environmental organizations. During the discussion, there was a great deal of hand wringing over what was and was not possible, what was going to happen on oil drilling legislation once Congress was back in session, and so on. But the thing I remember the most was what Leslie Robinson of Rifle, CO said:

“You’ve got 15 seconds to get a potential voter over to your side.” What do you say to that undecided voter in 15 seconds that is simple enough that you know they’ll get it, but that is also powerful enough to at least get them to do a double-take and ask you to explain what you mean? After all, everyone understands “Drill, baby! Drill!”. So how do you counter that simple message with an equally powerful and yet simple message?

The announcement of launch of the Green Jobs Now campaign this week is an excellent start, and one that was mentioned during the DNC discussion. With concerns about job security, outsourcing, and energy in the forefront of voters’ minds, this seems like a great approach. But there’s one flaw – what the hell is a “green job”? Because so many people don’t understand what a green job is, you won’t get as many double-take moments as you’ll need to oppose “drill here, drill now, pay less” et al. So while it’s certainly better than nothing, and the list of partnered organizations impressive, it’s not going to be enough to counter an oil drilling partisan. To counter folks like that, you need something more direct. Something that, instead of totally changing the conversation from gas prices to jobs (a very useful thing to do, I must admit), knocks the entire drilling argument on its head.

Next time you hear someone say that drilling more will drop oil prices, here’s your response:

“That’s a lie.”
(Use this one if you’re faced with an oil exec or someone who otherwise knows better)
“Big oil is lying to you about that.”
(Use this one if you’re trying to convince a fellow citizen they’re wrong)

Telling someone that they’ve been lied to, or that they’re lying, isn’t polite. That’s OK – what big oil has done – lied – on the drilling isn’t polite either, and the longer you let the people around you spew or parrot lies, the longer it’ll take to shut down the stupid “drill drill drill” meme that’s going around.

The only thing you have to do is make sure that you’ve got your facts straight once you’ve got their attention.

  • If they say that they can get the oil to market fast, tell them that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) say’s they’re wrong and that it’ll take 10 years at a minimum to get outer continental shelf (OCS) oil to market. And if they quibble, point out that the EIA is officially non-partisan but still part of the Bush Administration. Don’t forget to point out that a) there’s not enough deep sea drilling rigs to punch more holes in the OCS for something like 5 years, b) you can’t just build more deep see drilling rigs because every single shipbuilder capable of building new rigs is already booked solid and it takes 2-4 years from order to deliver of a new rig anyway. So no “two years from lifting the OCS ban to new oil production” for them….
  • If they say that oil shale will save us since there’s trillions of barrels of oil, tell them that a RAND Corporation study says that the savings from making shale-based oil available is only 3-5% and that it’ll be 2020 at the earliest before any oil could be available from shale projects (and 2028 before 1 million barrels per day would be exceeded – 2038 for 3 million barrels/day). And ask them where all the water needed for refining shale kerogen into useful oil products will come from – the water rights of local farmers and ranchers, or the downstream water rights of places like California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona.
  • If they say that drilling in ANWR can get oil to market fast because the pipeline is already there, point out that the pipeline has a little extra capacity, but not enough to make a dent in the lower 48’s oil demand. And this doesn’t even factor into account the fact that the EIA says that 25% of all proven U.S. crude oil reserves are non-producing (not being pumped and/or drilled). If the reserves are proven, then why aren’t oil companies already pumping out of them, hmmmm? Oh, and let’s not forget that every existing on-shore drilling rig is already busy punching holes in the ground, it takes 1-2 years to build new ones, and all the new rigs being built are already spoken for for at least the next 3 years. And finally, the EIA estimates that even at full capacity, opening ANWR will drop the price for oil by about $1.27 per barrel, which at today’s closing price on the NYMEX, ~$104/barrel, would be about 1.2%

Or you can print out this great graph from Architecture 2030 that I found via SolveClimate.com:

Sure, it only applies to the outer continental shelf, but the basic trend line is similar for oil shale, only worse.

Perception is reality in politics, and Big Oil has repeated these lies enough that people are starting to perceive them as true even though they aren’t. That can’t be allowed to continue. And I can think of no better way to stop it than to call the lies what they are – lies.

Big Oil is lying to you. “Drill here, drill now, pay less” is a lie. “Drill, baby, drill” is a lie. “All of the above” is a lie. And anyone telling you otherwise is either lying to you or doesn’t know that they’ve been lied to.

Practice that until you can say it in less than 15 seconds. And then go out and say it every time you hear someone else repeat the lie.

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