The Economics of Allowing More Domestic Oil Drilling

36 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2008

See all articles by Robert W. Hahn

Robert W. Hahn

Technology Policy Institute; University of Oxford, Smith School

Peter Passell

Milken Institute

Date Written: September 9, 2008


The recent sharp increase in the price of oil has generated renewed interest in U.S. oil exploration and development. This paper examines the likely impact of developing new energy resources on oil and gasoline prices. In addition, we use a benefit-cost framework to analyze the impact of allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the portions of the Outer Continental Shelf that are currently closed to development. We find that development of ANWR and off-limits OCS is likely to have only a modest impact on future world (and thus domestic) oil prices, on the order of one percent. Therefore, we believe that the impact of opening the new resource areas on current prices would be modest as well. Our benefit-cost analysis of developing off-limits OCS suggests that the benefits are very likely to exceed the costs. We are less confident in the case of ANWR, but still believe that the expected benefits of development are likely to exceed the costs. We suggest an alternative way of framing the issue of resource development that may give both policy makers and the public a better sense of the tradeoffs involved.

Suggested Citation

Hahn, Robert W. and Passell, Peter, The Economics of Allowing More Domestic Oil Drilling (September 9, 2008). Reg-Markets Center Working Paper No. 08-21, Available at SSRN: or

Robert W. Hahn (Contact Author)

Technology Policy Institute ( email )

1401 Eye St. NW
Suite 505
Washington, DC 20005
United States

University of Oxford, Smith School ( email )

United Kingdom

Peter Passell

Milken Institute ( email )

1250 Fourth Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
United States

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