Monday, June 16, 2008

Chinese Drilling for Oil?

Thanks to Michigan Liberal on this...

Congressman Tim Walberg has a big new energy plan, which I hope to be talking about more in the near future. As one might expect, it amounts to "Drill, Drill, DRILL," as Eric at Michigan Liberal demonstrates. This shouldn't be unexpected from the man who wants to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and under the Great Lakes.

To push his plan and make it look like Walberg has been doing something productive in Washington, Walberg has been telling lots of people about his new bill. At an event in Lenawee County, this video was recorded:

Note the exchange:
Question: How far along are the Chinese in their attempts to drill off the coast of Florida?
Walberg: Well, they'll be there. They're there.
Question: That's what I mean, how far along are they?
Walberg: They're there.
Really? The Chinese are already setting up drilling operations off the coast of Florida? Frankly, this is news to me. You'd have thought someone would notice sooner, but then in the last few days, I started to hear more and more about China drilling for oil just off of our coast.

The thing is, though, that it's just not true.

This whole thing started with conservative columnist George Will, who wrote:
Drilling is underway 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.
I haven't got the foggiest idea where George Will got this from. Apparently being a syndicated columnist gives you super secret information no one else in the country has.

Nevertheless, the story spread quickly, with Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) making the claim that China is drilling for oil off the coast of Florida the very same day that George Will's column was published. As others picked it up, Vice President Dick Cheney (R-WY) even ran with the story, even though one would think that he'd be one of the best informed people on this issue. As the AP reported afterward:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney's office acknowledged on Thursday that he was mistaken when he asserted that China, at Cuba's behest, is drilling for oil in waters 60 miles from the Florida coast.

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Cheney said on Wednesday that waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, long off limits to oil companies, should be opened to drilling because China is already there pumping oil.

"Oil is being drilled right now 60 miles off the coast of Florida," the vice president said. "We're not doing it, the Chinese are, in cooperation with the Cuban government. Even the communists have figured out that a good answer to high prices is more supply."

He cited his source as columnist George Will, who last week wrote: "Drilling is under way 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are."

(Emphasis added.)

So, George Will apparently made up some story about the Chinese drilling for oil (or just hasn't produced the evidence for it), and any number of Republicans bought it without question-- the latest being Congressman Tim Walberg. Had he been paying more attention, Walberg would have noticed that Florida Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) refuted the claim two days before Walberg's event:

Senator Martinez was also the chairman of the Republican National Committee for nearly a year, so it's not like he's a maverick who's going against his party. He's a respected Republican leader, and no matter how much his own state might benefit from increased American drilling off the coast of Florida, even he couldn't buy the story.

So why would Tim Walberg and Dick Cheney tell people that the Chinese are drilling for oil? Could it be that they'll say anything to make their dream of drilling basically everywhere come true?

And why would Tim Walberg want that to happen? Is it because he doesn't believe in global climate change or because he's already received $10,050 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry this cycle? Or is it just because he hates sustainability?

Regardless of the reasons, Congressman Walberg, you're not allowed to make up your own facts, no matter how many other people believe them. When asked if the Chinese were drilling for oil off the coast of Florida, you said "They're there."

That's a pretty powerful accusation, with three possible explanations:
  • You have evidence that the rest of us haven't seen.
  • You heard that other people were saying it, and just didn't bother to check your facts.
  • You were knowingly lying to us, and were just hoping we wouldn't notice.
If it's the first one, I'm eager to see the evidence. If it's either of the others, I'd like an apology.

I'd also like a better representative, please.

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I don't know what's wrong with this guy. One thing that really bothers me about him is that, as a "pastor," he seems to be awfully loose with his facts and quick with his smears.

Two main problems with his "theories" are: 1) It will take years before we can get usable gas from wherever he wants to drill; and 2) If the oil continues to be sold on the open market, it will be subject to market forces that supposedly run off supply and demand. No doubt OPEC will cut their output if the US begins injecting new oil into the market.

The only way I see Walberg's "plan" working is to sell the oil within in the US only in a closed market with price controls, something he will be adamantly against.
Hey, if we drill deep enough in Lake Michigan, we might hit some Chinese oil! Don't let Wally know about that! He might start drilling tomorrow!
We need to control our own energy supply. While we can not drill our way out of this crisis, it can be part of a multi-part strategy. Do both the Republican and the Democrat plans. Do oil. Do solar. Do wind. Do conservation.

Do it all. Do it now.
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