"Drill, baby. Drill!" is a lie

During the DNC, I had the opportunity to sit in on a climate messaging discussion with several VIPs from various environmental organizations. During the discussion, there was a great deal of hand wringing over what was and was not possible, what was going to happen on oil drilling legislation once Congress was back in session, and so on. But the thing I remember the most was what Leslie Robinson of Rifle, CO said:

“You’ve got 15 seconds to get a potential voter over to your side.” What do you say to that undecided voter in 15 seconds that is simple enough that you know they’ll get it, but that is also powerful enough to at least get them to do a double-take and ask you to explain what you mean? After all, everyone understands “Drill, baby! Drill!”. So how do you counter that simple message with an equally powerful and yet simple message?

The announcement of launch of the Green Jobs Now campaign this week is an excellent start, and one that was mentioned during the DNC discussion. With concerns about job security, outsourcing, and energy in the forefront of voters’ minds, this seems like a great approach. But there’s one flaw – what the hell is a “green job”? Because so many people don’t understand what a green job is, you won’t get as many double-take moments as you’ll need to oppose “drill here, drill now, pay less” et al. So while it’s certainly better than nothing, and the list of partnered organizations impressive, it’s not going to be enough to counter an oil drilling partisan. To counter folks like that, you need something more direct. Something that, instead of totally changing the conversation from gas prices to jobs (a very useful thing to do, I must admit), knocks the entire drilling argument on its head.

Next time you hear someone say that drilling more will drop oil prices, here’s your response:

“That’s a lie.”
(Use this one if you’re faced with an oil exec or someone who otherwise knows better)
“Big oil is lying to you about that.”
(Use this one if you’re trying to convince a fellow citizen they’re wrong)

Telling someone that they’ve been lied to, or that they’re lying, isn’t polite. That’s OK – what big oil has done – lied – on the drilling isn’t polite either, and the longer you let the people around you spew or parrot lies, the longer it’ll take to shut down the stupid “drill drill drill” meme that’s going around.

The only thing you have to do is make sure that you’ve got your facts straight once you’ve got their attention.

  • If they say that they can get the oil to market fast, tell them that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) say’s they’re wrong and that it’ll take 10 years at a minimum to get outer continental shelf (OCS) oil to market. And if they quibble, point out that the EIA is officially non-partisan but still part of the Bush Administration. Don’t forget to point out that a) there’s not enough deep sea drilling rigs to punch more holes in the OCS for something like 5 years, b) you can’t just build more deep see drilling rigs because every single shipbuilder capable of building new rigs is already booked solid and it takes 2-4 years from order to deliver of a new rig anyway. So no “two years from lifting the OCS ban to new oil production” for them….
  • If they say that oil shale will save us since there’s trillions of barrels of oil, tell them that a RAND Corporation study says that the savings from making shale-based oil available is only 3-5% and that it’ll be 2020 at the earliest before any oil could be available from shale projects (and 2028 before 1 million barrels per day would be exceeded – 2038 for 3 million barrels/day). And ask them where all the water needed for refining shale kerogen into useful oil products will come from – the water rights of local farmers and ranchers, or the downstream water rights of places like California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona.
  • If they say that drilling in ANWR can get oil to market fast because the pipeline is already there, point out that the pipeline has a little extra capacity, but not enough to make a dent in the lower 48’s oil demand. And this doesn’t even factor into account the fact that the EIA says that 25% of all proven U.S. crude oil reserves are non-producing (not being pumped and/or drilled). If the reserves are proven, then why aren’t oil companies already pumping out of them, hmmmm? Oh, and let’s not forget that every existing on-shore drilling rig is already busy punching holes in the ground, it takes 1-2 years to build new ones, and all the new rigs being built are already spoken for for at least the next 3 years. And finally, the EIA estimates that even at full capacity, opening ANWR will drop the price for oil by about $1.27 per barrel, which at today’s closing price on the NYMEX, ~$104/barrel, would be about 1.2%

Or you can print out this great graph from Architecture 2030 that I found via

Sure, it only applies to the outer continental shelf, but the basic trend line is similar for oil shale, only worse.

Perception is reality in politics, and Big Oil has repeated these lies enough that people are starting to perceive them as true even though they aren’t. That can’t be allowed to continue. And I can think of no better way to stop it than to call the lies what they are – lies.

Big Oil is lying to you. “Drill here, drill now, pay less” is a lie. “Drill, baby, drill” is a lie. “All of the above” is a lie. And anyone telling you otherwise is either lying to you or doesn’t know that they’ve been lied to.

Practice that until you can say it in less than 15 seconds. And then go out and say it every time you hear someone else repeat the lie.

11 replies »

  1. You make a good point. It’s not polite to call people liars. Then again, lying is even less polite, especially when it’s enabling an agenda that’s overtly damaging to the well-being of others.

    When in doubt, tell the truth.

  2. The really surprising thing is how shocked people are that they are being lied to by what they hear and see on television. I’ve been pointing out the big oil lies for months now and almost every person I acquaint with the ten plus year reality of the situation have a hard time believing that they are being fed “half-truths” by the TV adds. To me its not a “half-truth” its a LIE.

  3. No kidding, Rho. I’m actually a little concerned that people would blindly believe that the TV and radio ads are honest when they’re usually not. Ads are always trying to sell us something, and the people making them will say pretty much anything they’re legally allowed to in order to get us to buy it.

  4. Pingback:
  5. Brian,
    I agree but I’ve had the big oil is telling lies discussion multiple times now and it seems most people are more willing to believe the TV then common sense until you explain it in single syllable words a child could understand. in fact one discussion the guys kid got it much quicker than he did.

  6. What do we say to, “Drill Baby Drill?

    “This is your brain addicted to oil.”
    “Crude is thicker than blood.”
    “Even if it means Drilling Babies?”

  7. Great post, Brian.
    I find it maddening that of all the possible solutions to our problem with oil, a significant portion of the population would choose the “solution” most likely to exacerbate said problem over the long-term. Then again, i really should be used to this kind of situation by now…why can’t i habituate myself to the insanity?

  8. Another point to make about the Lie is: When they talk about more supply bringing down the price they fail to mention that the Oil will be sold on the Open Market and the price on the Open Market is controlled by OPEC.
    If the US ramps up production OPEC will REDUCE production to keep the price high (they just did this!).
    When OPEC cuts production the extra Oil to keep the market supplied will soon DEPLETE all U.S. Oil Reserves and we are right back in the same boat we are now!

    I say NO to Drilling until they promise that American Oil STAYS in America!