Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.
Drilling off the coast of California, Florida and elsewhere would increase domestic oil production by 7 percent by 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration. But “because oil prices are determined on the international market…any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.” There is no short-term benefit to drilling, says the EIA, because it would take at least five years for oil production to begin. (Source: Center for American Progress.)
On the other hand, in a single step tomorrow --- closing the Enron Loophole --- Congress and George Bush could create an overnight drop in oil prices of between 25 and 50 percent. This is according to testimony before a Senate Committee two weeks ago by Michael Greenberger, the former director of Trading & Markets for the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC), the government board that oversees commodities markets.
"Yes," Greenberger testified, "overnight [closing the Enron Loophole] will bring down the price of crude oil to get at least a 25 percent drop in the cost of oil and a corresponding drop in the cost of gasoline. Some people estimate 50 percent."
Greenberger's testimony was brought to light by an investigation into the Enron Loophole by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's "Countdown" last week. (A transcript of Olbermann's report follows.)
The Enron Loophole is the nickname for a provision written into the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA) of 2000 that was drafted by lobbyists for Enron and inserted in the bill by then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) that deregulated an aspect of the market Enron sought to exploit with its "Enron On-Line" trading program, the first Internet-based commodities transaction system. Phil Gramm is now a key economic adviser for the John McCain campaign.
While it was a technical success, Enron On-Line was based on a flawed business model that drained corporate revenues --- even while the company was manipulating the rates consumers paid for electricity in California. Enron On-Line eventually drove the company into bankruptcy, and the cooking of the books to hide its losses led to charges of conspiracy and fraud against Enron executives.
The Republicans' sudden rollout of the campaign to lift the ban on offshore drilling is really meant to shift the blame from Bush and the GOP to the Democrats and their opposition to offshore drilling. To their credit, they have done a masterful job --- and all it has cost them is the credibility of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who broke tradition in the state and came out in favor of lifting the ban. (It has also cost whatever meager credibility Crist's predecessor, Jeb Bush, had left. Bush opposed lifting the ban when he was in office but came out wholeheartedly in favor of it this weekend.)
Here's the transcript of the video of the report on the June 18 edition of "Countdown":