I don't think the GOP's sudden affection for drilling is any great mystery. Drilling may not work to solve our oil prices or bring down costs, but liberals really hate drilling, and that's enough. Folks have talked before of the GOP's affection for the politics of ressentiment; this is a policy of ressentiment.Yup.
That, at least, is what makes it a base unifier. What makes the policy politically effective is that it's extremely intuitive. Not enough oil? Drill some more. The rejoinder that "a Department of Energy analysis shows that such drilling would have an 'insignificant' effect on oil prices" isn't quite as snappy. And meanwhile, liberals really don't want to drill up every available inch of land, so the GOP has actually found an energy policy that can be their own, even as they pretend to support liberal attempts to get us away from oil. It's a political winner all around: Liberals hate it so the base loves it, liberals don't support it so Republicans can slam them with it, and it makes intuitive sense. That it also demonstrates either a total ignorance of energy policy or a total contempt for the intelligence of the electorate is really neither here nor there.
Politics of Resentment
This does seem to jive with observation: