Bush Acts on Drilling, Challenging Democrats -- I say let 'em drill.
President Bush lifted nearly two decades of executive orders banning drilling for oil and natural gas off the country’s shoreline on Monday while challenging Congress to open up more areas for exploration to address soaring energy prices.
Democrats in Congress, joined by environmentalists, criticized the step and ridiculed it as ineffectual, while most Republicans and industry representatives applauded it as long overdue.
The lifting of the moratorium — first announced by Mr. Bush’s father, President George Bush, in 1990 and extended by President Bill Clinton — will have no real impact because a Congressional moratorium on drilling enacted in 1981 and renewed annually remains in force. And there appeared to be no consensus for lifting it in tandem with Mr. Bush’s action.
Rather than signaling a change in the country’s policy, the president’s decision appeared only to harden well-established positions, intensifying an already contentious issue in the middle of an election year.
Since 1982, the ban on offshore oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf — vast areas 3 to 200 miles offshore — has been renewed by Republican and Democratic presidents and Democratic and Republican Congresses.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, faces an increasing uneasiness among his colleagues, who have signaled receptiveness to allowing more drilling.
A bipartisan group of senators is trying to develop a compromise energy plan, and the leaders of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have scheduled a workshop for Thursday where lawmakers and other experts will offer ideas on how to respond to the climb in oil prices.
See also The Wall Street Journal that notes:
A Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst said in a report there is a lot of offshore crude that can be produced relatively quickly. The problem: It is located off California, where politicians have built careers opposing new drilling.
The Minerals Management Service said that of the estimated 18 billion barrels of oil in off-limits coastal areas, almost 10 billion are off the coast of California.
"California could actually start producing new oil within a year if the moratorium were lifted," the Sanford C. Bernstein report said, because the oil is under shallow water, has been explored and drilling platforms have been there since before the moratoria.