New McCain ad repeats gas-prices claim

The McCain campaign released a new Web ad today entitled “Crisis.”

Let’s focus for now on the ad’s promise of “offshore drilling to reduce gas prices” – a promise that’s really just smoke and mirrors.

A few market observers have opined that expanding oil drilling off America’s coasts could help lower gas prices, but not in the way most people think. You see, it’s not as if oil prospectors will just row a few miles offshore, lower a pipe into the water and start sucking up barrels of crude, causing prices at the pump to tumble. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf will not have a notable impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production before 2030 — and even then, the effect on prices will be “insignificant.”

Got that? No impact for at least 22 years, and even then, not much to show for it.

What the market observers say is that expanded drilling will make people think our nation has a solid, long-term energy plan, and this belief will bring prices down. It’s psychology, not actual production. It’s a means of fooling the market, and right now, a means of fooling voters.

But why try to fool anyone? Why not embrace this desperation we feel every time we fill up our tanks, and mix it with some good old American ingenuity? Why not come up with a long-term plan that inspires confidence because it’s truly sound, both for our energy needs and our environment? (Remember, Sarah Palin — whose state budget relies almost entirely on oil royalties and taxes — acknowledges she doesn’t believe human behavior is responsible for global warming.)

Why not commit to developing better fuel-efficiency standards so our cars need less gas; developing cars that run on little or no gas at all; developing clean, renewable energy sources for the rest of our needs? And while doing that, why risk our shorelines for a short-term perception boost with little or no long-term impact?

A Survey USA poll conducted in June showed 14 percent of Californians believe offshore drilling will result in an immediate drop in gasoline prices, and an additional 46 percent believe oil prices will come down “eventually” through offshore drilling. Almost half said they only recently come to think drilling should be expanded, given the price of gas.

This new McCain ad continues to play on that, putting perception ahead of reality.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • And how about reversing sprawl? And putting more money into public transit instead of roads? And getting on our bikes once in a while instead of driving everywhere?