Over at National Review Online, Mark Hemingway has a really interesting story on his experience visiting an off-shore oil platform:

The platform is the size of a few football fields jammed together, and the top of the derrick was easily a few hundred feet off the water. Dozens of people lived on board, and everything – from the computer systems to the actual drilling rig – was state of the art. Brutus produced over 100,000 barrels of oil a day – down from over 300,000 at its peak capacity.

That sounds impressive. But here’s what truly floored me: Shell decided Brutus’s location in the gulf would be profitable for drilling in April 1999. The company then built the massive oil platform, transported it to the right location in the gulf, anchored the floating leviathan onto the seafloor 3,000 feet below, drilled 17,000 feet below that, and began producing oil in July 2001. It took only two years to get Brutus online.

Of course, as Hemingway writes, this doesn’t mean that allowing additional exploration would mean that Americans would be enjoying $2 per gallon gasoline, but it does suggest that help could be on the way sooner than many drilling opponents are willing to admit. Of course, allowing more exploration might also encourage foreign producers to begin pumping more and discourage speculation. In other words, while allowing drilling isn’t an immediate fix, it would generate positive effects very quickly.