Rep. Issa Schedules Hearing To Push False Link Between Limited Drilling, High Gas Prices

May 18, 2011 3:05 pm ET — Matt Gertz

Rep. Darrell Issa

On Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) Oversight Committee will hold a hearing attempting to make the case that "policies that suppress domestic production of oil and gas" are causing "pain at the pump." In fact, a wide range of experts, including the former chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, have concluded that blaming the Obama administration for high gas prices is a fallacy.

While it won't bring down the cost of gasoline, expanding drilling will, however, benefit the oil companies that donate heavily to Issa's campaigns. The oil and gas industry has provided Issa's campaigns with more than $130,000, including more than $40,000 in the last cycle. Tuesday's hearing will be the second this month to reward those loyal donors.

In an op-ed last week, Issa laid out what will probably be the focus of the upcoming hearing:

As gas prices across the United States approach four dollars a gallon, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that political agendas and the administration's bureaucratic delays do not block efforts to lower energy costs and use our nation's abundant natural resources. Increasing oil and gas production - both offshore and on -is essential to our energy future.

We need to rely far more on hydraulic fracturing, a proven, safe technology.. We must also eliminate the excessive regulatory barriers to offshore drilling. With this, Washington can pave the way to an independent energy future.

The Oversight Committee already tackled hydraulic fracturing (which isn't nearly as safe as Issa suggests), so Tuesday's hearing will likely deal with offshore drilling. But the claim that limiting offshore production has dramatically increased the cost of gas is simply false, as numerous reports have shown.

In fact, the Bush administration's Energy Information Administration found in 2007 that increased offshore drilling "would not have a significant impact" on production before 2030 and concluded that "[b]ecause oil prices are determined on the international market...any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant." 

Moreover, numerous experts have stated that President Obama's drilling policies have not caused today's high gas prices, and that the administration's offshore drilling moratorium has had only a "miniscule" impact. For example:

  • Michael Canes, former chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, who disagrees with Obama's drilling policies said: "It's not credible to blame the Obama Administration's drilling policies for today's high prices because of the relative scales involved."
  • Fadel Gheit, energy analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., told FactCheck.org that "[o]nly the naïve will think that" the deep-water moratorium "will have a direct impact." He added: "It doesn't even move the needle. Is 100,000 barrels (a day) going to make a difference? It's not. A cent or two per gallon? It might. But there are much bigger factors."
  • Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute and business professor at the Haas School of Business, said that the drilling moratorium has "a miniscule impact on the price of oil and that "the changes we're talking about here, probably are raising oil prices no more than 1%-2%, which is 2-5 cents at the pump."
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