Right Wing: NEWSWEEK's Guide to Conservative Talking Points on the Oil Spill


The headline of a recent National Review Online editorial tells it simply: “Yes, Keep Drilling.”

Why? Here is a rundown of some conservative talking points on why Americans might want to drop the "drill, baby, drill" motto—it doesn't sound so good now—but should drill on anyway.

  • Oil remains our most cost-effective source of transportation fuel. "Others already have observed, correctly, that the risks involved in drilling off the coast of the United States are small in proportion to those involved in shipping oil across the ocean or drilling off the coasts of countries that do not treat safety and environmental standards with our own degree of care," write the National Review editors.
  • Alternatives proposed by environmentalists may be just as costly, if not more, than the BP cleanup. "Consider the cost of cap-and-trade legislation, for instance. It's hard to know what the economic damages of this spill will be, but even if they exceed the estimated $7 billion that it cost to clean up the Exxon Valdez spill, that would still be a far cry from the estimated $161 billion annual hit to GDP that would result from enactment of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. On the environmental side of the ledger, will the damages from this spill outweigh the thousands of birds killed in wind turbines each year? Possibly. How about the slashing and burning of thousands of acres of rainforest that come as a result of ethanol subsidies? We doubt it."
  • Investors in rigs will already be thinking twice before putting their money into deep-sea drilling, so no need to punish BP and the gang more than they've already suffered. "In other words, the market will act as a check on deep-water exploration practices. At this time, it is not obvious that any new regulation would serve any purpose other than to let politicians claim that they've 'done something' in response to the accident. As usual, overreaction is a significant danger: The reaction to Three Mile Island set the development of safe and clean nuclear power back for a generation."
  • Drill closer to shore. "The safety record of shallow-water drilling remains very impressive, and this deep-water calamity neither tarnishes that record nor indicates that it couldn't be duplicated if Obama opened more of the coastline to exploration."
  • Don't fall for any conspiracy theories. "The environmental movement did not sabotage the rig to further its agenda, nor did Big Oil do it to create artificial scarcity in the market for crude. Disasters happen, and this is one."

The Wall Street Journal also weighed in with an editorial offering further talking points.

  • Spills like this are rare. "The most recent spill of this magnitude was the Exxon Valdez tanker accident in 1989. The largest before that was the Santa Barbara offshore oil well leak in 1969. The infrequency of big spills is extraordinary considering the size of the offshore oil industry that provides Americans with affordable energy."
  • It could have been worse. The slow response to the Exxon Valdez disaster prompted new legislation to avoid such disasters. "We have seen the benefits in the last two weeks as the Coast Guard has deployed several containment techniques—from burning and chemical dispersants to physical barriers. America sometimes learns from its mistakes."
  • Drilling far away from shore is too risky. "Washington's aversion to drilling closer to shore has pushed the industry into deeper, more difficult, waters farther out to sea. BP's well is 5,000 feet down, at a depth and pressure that test the most advanced engineering and technology. The depth complicates containment efforts when there is a disaster."
  • A drilling moratorium may lead to more spills. "If we don't drill for it at home, the oil will have to arrive by tanker and barges. Tankers are responsible for more spills than offshore wells, and those spills tend to be bigger and closer to shore—which usually means more environmental harm."