The issue of skyrocketing oil and gas prices in the United States has found itself at the center of a national debate. Last week, a new proposal was advanced by President George Bush and Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, to lift a 27-year-old ban on offshore oil drilling. Supporters of this proposal say that lifting the ban on offshore drilling promises to provide 16 to 18 billion barrels of oil to current levels of domestic oil production. According to some estimates, this additional domestic supply could fuel the nation for 10 years.
However, opponents of this proposal say that lifting the ban would come at a costly price to the environment. Senator Barack Obama has said that the proposal is a ploy that will make oil companies richer but fail to reduce the price of oil for American consumers. While much of the oil available offshore oil could be pumped almost immediately, it would take about 10 years to get all oil reserves tapped and into the domestic economy. Environmentalists are concerned about spills, smells, and the degradation of our oceanic views. Other skeptics argue that by the time new oil comes online, internal demand will outstrip these new supplies.
With millions of motorists finding $4 a gallon gasoline less and less affordable, a recent Gallup poll showed that 57 percent of Americans support the idea of drilling offshore. But how will lifting the ban actually impact the price of gasoline in the near and longer-term future? Is this proposal a campaign stunt to divide the electorate, or is it a necessary measure given the pending energy crisis? Is it worth drilling now for potentially improved pricing and national security later? What are other alternatives or solutions that could counter the skyrocketing price of gasoline? And what is the responsibility of the government to contain oil prices?
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