Monday, August 3, 2009

Bob McDonnell on Off Shore Drilling: More Distortion

My bone of contention with Bob McDonnell’s candidacy is not really the issue positions he holds. The fact is that most of his policy positions are commonplace for the know-nothing chorus of the right wing these days. Pretty pedestrian stuff.

No, my real bone of contention with Mr. McDonnell is the disingenuousness, bordering on outright dishonesty, with which he is making his case to the people of Virginia. This makes honest debate difficult, if not impossible.

As I have noted previously, for example, Mr. McDonnell is very, very Conservative on social issues like a woman’s right to choose and equal rights for gay people. That is okay; millions of Americans agree with him on these matters. But Mr. McDonnell tries at every turn to soft pedal his positions on these matters and present himself as a moderate on these issues, and that is not okay.

Yes, I would much rather talk about the issue of why I believe, in a pluralistic society, choice is the only workable option on the legalized abortion question until it can be scientifically and objectively proved one way or another when life begins.

I’d much rather debate the issue of discrimination against gay Americans, and the extent to which gay people should be treated, as a matter of law, as a protected class and why.

But all too often in this campaign I have found such debate impossible, and instead have had to spend inordinate amounts of time exposing Mr. McDonnell’s distortions of his own record and the beliefs that he is known to hold.

As I roam more through Mr. McDonnell’s web site, however, I am finding it is not just social issues, however. Take his position on off-shore drilling.

Mr. McDonnell is, needless to say, a “Drill Baby Driller” on the issue.

My own view on this issue is actually closer to Creigh’s than to that of my Progressive friends. On the one hand, I don’t think we should take anything off the table if we can produce it safely and in an economically productive fashion. On the other hand, my sense is that taken together, the environmental, economic, social and political factors probably argue against off-shore drilling for the time being, but warrant continued study and debate.

But I'm not looking to get too deep into the woods on this issue. My point is that there seems to be some conflicting information out there, and for someone like me who is not immersed in the subject matter, it is not always clear where the ideology begins and objectivity ends.

So, I can agree with the very first line on Mr. McDonnell’s web page about off-shore drilling, a quote from Mr. McDonnell himself: “Let’s put ideology aside and be comprehensive when it comes to our energy future.”

Unfortunately, Mr. McDonnell then goes ahead to put forth what can only be described as an ideological argument for off-shore drilling, offering a case that is void of any fair reading of all the facts, or of an honest and rigorous analysis, and is simply based in an article of conviction that off shore drilling just, well, feels right.

But is is an argument that, once again, Mr. Mcdonnell dresses in the costume of moderation and the pretense of science.

Mr. McDonnell states on his site:
In a 2005 study by a professor at Old Dominion University, it was estimated that offshore natural gas production alone could over a 10-year period, create 2,578 new jobs, induce capital investment of $7.84 billion, yield $644 million in direct and indirect payroll, and result in $271 million in state and local taxes. According to a recent report by the American Energy Alliance, offshore activities stand to contribute $3.2 billion to the economy of Virginia and more than 15,000 well- paying jobs. While Virginia would still need to negotiate the share with the federal government, if the 37.5% royalty revenue share was extended to Virginia, like it is to states near the Gulf of Mexico, the Commonwealth could bring in nearly $5 billion in non-tax revenue over the next 30 years, as reported by the Southeast Energy Alliance.

Hey, it seems reasonable. The experts say it is safe and will be economically beneficial, so lets do it!

What Bob McDonnell doesn’t tell you, of course, is that the American Energy Alliance is a front organization funded by the oil industry, and run by Thomas Pyle, a former aide to disgraced former Congressman Tom Delay. It is not providing objective information – not even close.

As for the report by a professor at ODU, McDonnell is presumably referring to a report by former ODU president Dr. James Koch for the Institute for Policy Studies at ODU. The report is elusive, and difficult to obtain, so it has not been critiqued in the media at all.

But here is the interesting thing. Not even Dr. Koch draws the conclusions from his work that Mr. McDonnell does. Here is what the Virginian-Pilot had to say about the study back in 2006:
Koch cautioned that the figures are rough, based in part on the experience of states such as Louisiana, where drilling already is permitted.

"I did not reach any conclusion on whether this was a good idea or not," Koch said.

In fact, the non-partisan Thomas Jefferson Institute found that while the environmental impact of off-shore drilling might be negligible, royalty estimates of $200 million “do not seem likely at this time.” The TJI puts the figure at only $69 million, and that is only if the project procudes 100% of Virginia’s oil and gas needs. Furthermore, “until there is additional test drilling, the expected oil and gas reserves off Virginia’s shores is simply unknown.”

Well, I guess it’s not unknown to Bob McDonnell, who recently told Human Events, "It is an economic bonanza in potential for us if we are able to be the first. I’m making that a goal. I’m doing everything I can to make it happen.”

And last, but not least,, if Mr. McDonnell got his way and we started drilling i9n January 2010, production would not even begin until 2015.

And here is yet a further problem. Mr. McDonnell is also proposing that we use this unlikely revenue, which will probably be around $70 million, from oil and natural gas reserves that may or may not exist, and even if it does exist will not be flowing for at least five years, to finance our hundreds of million of dollars of transportation needs now.

The point is that, at best, the jury is out on the issue of off-shore drilling. But Mr. McDonnell is telling Virginians another story.

Mr. McDonnell is a personable man. I have enjoyed listening to him the several times I have heard him speak. He seems like a nice fellow, and on based on a televsion commercial he ran featuring his kids, he seems like he has a wonderful family.

I just wish he was running a more honest campaign. But, of course, if he was, he probably would not get elected, and I suspect he knows that, based on his actions so far.


  1. Virginia offshore drilling is indeed a red herring. Several ultimately failed attempts have been made by congressional legislators in coastal states for revenue sharing amongst impacted coastal states. But the muscle potentially allowing this lies in non-coastal states and they aren't giving away any of their current revenue streams. Estimated loss to the Feds' coffers is between $653 and $790 billion.

  2. "Yes, I would much rather talk about the issue of why I believe, in a pluralistic society, choice is the only workable option on the legalized abortion question until it can be scientifically and objectively proved one way or another when life begins."

    I am currently a Deeds supporter, and voted for him in the primary, but I note that both candidates are not exactly open on their abortion stances. I poked around the Deeds website for a bit, and could not find mention of the topic.

    FWIW, I think that it has been "scientifically and objectively proved" that life begins at conception -- even most pro-choicer's would admit that a single living cell is life. You probably meant to say when does "human life" or "humanity" begin -- that is a much more debatable point, where opinions usually range from conception to point of viability -- although there are a few that assert the right to terminate a pregnancy up until birth. Based on other sources, I am pretty sure that McDonnell's opinion is conception (or even before, based on seeming opposition to birth control), but I am not clear on Deeds' position.

    Anyway, thank you for the helpful post, especially in pointing out some (of the many) deficiencies in McDonnell's platform.

  3. WestEnd - Good point about "life" vs. "human life." That is exactly what I meant. I would admit that a single living cell is life.