Republicans’ “Drilling for Highways” initiative doesn’t add up

Nov 17, 2011

The latest proposal by Speaker Boehner, Chairman Hastings, and Chairman Mica to promote oil and gas drilling revenues to repair our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges doesn’t add up.

“The Republican plan for filling the rather large pothole in the Highway Trust Fund is the same plan that they have for everything: ‘Drill, baby, drill,’” said Dave Alberswerth, senior energy policy adviser for The Wilderness Society.

Drilling sensitive areas of America’s coasts, in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and mining western oil shale deposits, will not fix the sizable gap in the Highway Trust Fund, according to The Wilderness Society.  The three bills in the proposal are scheduled to be debated in the Energy and Minerals Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee on Friday, November 18th, and are expected to be the roadmap for the Republican Leadership’s new “jobs agenda.”

“Their numbers don’t add up – the amount that they might get from new OCS revenues couldn’t build an on-ramp, much less a highway, and by the time oil shale development generates any revenue, we’ll all be using Star Trek teleportation machines,” said Alberswerth.

Some of the questions that the “drilling for highways” plan raises include:

  • Currently, most of the revenue from offshore drilling goes to the US Treasury. Won’t diverting these revenues to the Highway Trust Fund add to our budget deficit woes?


  • The Highway Trust Fund currently has a funding gap of $12 billion over the next 2 years; drilling in the new areas of the Outer Continental Shelf proposed by the Speaker’s plan will only add about $10 million per year, according to a CBO report on the Republican’s OCS drilling proposal, and the other proposals would take years, if not decades to show any revenue. Realistically, how would the Speaker’s plan close that gap?


  • The $730 billion outdoor recreation economy depends on lands like those protected by the LWCF.  If the OCS royalties that are currently funding the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund are stripped to add to the Highway Trust Fund? If so, how will the losses to the outdoor recreation economy be offset?


  • How would external costs such as coastal degradation and other environmental costs be offset?  Would royalty rates on offshore drilling be raised to make up for the lost funding for the LWCF and other environmental programs?

“This is just another initiative to further pad the oil and gas industry’s profits, and at the expense of our oceans and coastal areas.   We won’t be able to improve our highway transportation system or fill the Highway Trust Fund with the monies falsely promised by the Speaker’s proposals, but the oil and gas is certainly looking forward to more record-breaking profits from the favors this proposal does for them,”  said Alberswerth.