President Bush's Rose Garden call for Congress to lift its longstanding ban on offshore oil drilling was as much politics as energy policy.
He called on the lawmakers to do so before their July 4 recess - an impossibly short time frame - otherwise they will have to explain to their constituents why "$4 a gallon gasoline is not enough incentive for them to act. And Americans will rightly ask how high gas prices have to rise before the Democratic-controlled Congress will do something about it."
As all party to this debate know, opening the continental shelf to renewed exploration would do nothing about current oil prices and any impact on future prices when the new oil comes on line years hence would depend on the state of the world oil market then.
Bush said offshore drilling could supply up to 18 billion barrels of oil, but the prohibited areas include both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Simply exploring an area that vast, let alone exploiting any discoveries, is a massive undertaking.
The president also knowingly injected himself into the political campaign. His call for repeal came just days after John McCain urged Congress to do the same. Curiously, McCain remains opposed to drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge. Barack Obama is opposed both to that and lifting the offshore ban.
The politics aside, offshore drilling technology his improved immensely since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Testament to that were the hundreds of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that safely weathered Katrina and Rita. And the harsh reality is that no serious energy policy can ignore the potential of untapped offshore oil reserves.