How You Know McCain’s Offshore Drilling Reversal Is a Pander

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It might seem obvious that McCain’s new-found support for offshore drilling is a pander: after all, the federal government itself says that if you were to drill all over the continental United States, you’d find enough oil to last America just two and a half years, meaning we’re not talking about a long-term solution. Moreover, offshore drilling will cause only a marginal impact on prices, and even that tiny impact won’t be felt for another seven to 10 years, according to the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry trade group that points out that production cannot start right away.

But maybe McCain didn’t check the numbers. Is there any other way you can tell that offshore drilling is actually pointless, and serves only as a base election-season pitch to voters angry about high gas prices? There is. There are no ships.

As President Bush calls for repealing a ban on drilling off most of the coast of the United States, a shortage of ships used for deep-water offshore drilling promises to impede any rapid turnaround in oil exploration and supply.

…the world’s existing drill-ships are booked solid for the next five years. Some oil companies have been forced to postpone exploration while waiting for a drilling rig, executives and analysts said.

Demand is so high that shipbuilders, the biggest of whom are in Asia, have raised prices since last year by as much as $100 million a vessel to about half a billion dollars.

“The crunch on rigs is everywhere,” said Alberto Guimaraes, a senior executive at Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company that has discovered some of the most promising offshore oil but has been unable to get at it.

Even if we did lift the moratorium on offshore drilling, we wouldn’t have the equipment needed to actually take advantage. If McCain knows this and is supporting offshore drilling anyway, he’s pandering. If he doesn’t know this, he needs to go back to public policy school.

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