In response to CROOKED TALK ON ENERGY Theresa R. asked: "Isn't it obvious that pumping more of our own oil and thus producing more supply will bring down the price of oil?"

Theresa, thanks for reading. You are one of my six loyal readers.

The answer to your question is: No. There are some obvious things here but that is not one of them. Developing new fields in the US -- anywhere -- will exert downward pressure on the price of oil and gasoline. But increasing domestic production has virtually no chance of actually causing the price of oil to drop, because the effect of domestic drilling will be small in comparison to the mountain of factors that are causing the price to rise.

Looking at some simple numbers should give us a sense of the tremendous scope of what we're dealing with here. Until about 50 years ago the US probably could have satisfied all its petroleum needs with domestic production (It didn't. By 1948 the US was already consuming more foreign oil than it exported, although not by necessity.) It seemed we had plenty of oil bubbling up down in Texas, and beyond that an ocean of untapped reserves in the Middle East (much of which was controlled by American companies and incredibly cheap to produce). But then the geological reality hit home and it became apparent that the easy domestic fields, the former gushers, were starting to shrivel up. Domestic oil production peaked at about 10 million bpd, circa 1970. Today the US produces about 5 mbpd, even after opening up huge fields in Alaska a few decades ago. Texas oil production is a mere shadow of its former self. Less and less oil comes out of American soil every day! Not for lack of drilling and exploration has this occurred, quite the opposite.

So, today we pump about half the oil we did in 1970. The punchline is we consume about twice as much as we did then. Whoops! Half. Twice. The vast majority of Americans' oil, significantly more than the 10 million bpd that we managed to produce at our peak, comes from foreign countries.

Obviously, anybody who claims we can drill our way out of a hole like that is wrong. We are not going to kick the hippies out of the way, triple our production and dislodge the US from the OPEC teet. There are a lot of people making this claim right now, or not-so-artfully hinting at it. Some of them are just misguided, and others are deliberately trying to spread misinformation: oil company execs, lobbyists and their minions. Of course they know that domestic drilling won't solve our problems, but they are going to do whatever they can including lie to get at whatever oil is left. Not only is this oil worth billions to the international companies that will control it and sell it back to Americans at market price, it could also give these increasingly irrelevant companies a reason for being in a world where non-state oil companies control less than ten percent of global supplies.

It is inevitable, in my opinion, that ANWR and other sensitive areas will be drilled as the energy crisis progresses and Americans become ever more desperate to salvage a dying lifestyle. We will squander our resources rather than save them for a true emergency or conserve them for future generations. That's just how we are. It is also sadly inevitable, in my opinion, that this will have no significant positive effect on the energy predicament other than to stave off 12$/gallon gas for an extra 15 minutes or so.

Act soon, and you can still trade in your Prius for a more sensible vehicle.