The truth about drilling and gas prices

Republicans are slamming Democrats for their opposition to offshore oil drilling, but new drilling wouldn't bring relief at the pump any time soon.

Published June 24, 2008 10:26PM (EDT)

Here's my latest video for our partners at Current. In it, I talk about the continuing controversy over the energy plans of both major candidates for president, and specifically the Republican argument in favor of more drilling for oil -- and their argument that Democrats are standing in the way of lower gas prices by opposing drilling.

As my colleague Andrew Leonard noted recently -- and the Obama campaign has been pressing this point, unsurprisingly -- experts say that new offshore drilling for oil will have an "insignificant" impact on gas prices. And it will take years before even that is felt; oil doesn't just spring out of the ground and into our gas stations as soon as drilling begins. Before he reversed himself on the issue and his campaign started attacking Barack Obama for having a "do-nothing energy policy," John McCain himself acknowledged this.

Of course, it's also true that Obama's policy prescriptions almost certainly won't do anything to bring down gas prices. But that's for good reason. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported recently, "Obama generally has little to say about how to reduce gas prices in the short term largely because he and his advisers don't believe that there's much the U.S. can do to bring the prices down, short of shaming or threatening the oil companies." Obama's advisors seem to be right about that.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.