Other News...
sponsored by Richardson Repair

Bush wants more oil drilling, but sites not clear

Send a link to a friend

[July 12, 2008]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- More oil production suddenly has become the mantra for Republican and Democratic politicians alike as voters seethe over $4-plus gasoline - and the most powerful people in Washington can't find any way to provide relief.

InsuranceStill, they don't agree on where to drill, and if they did, it still wouldn't provide any help to motorists struggling at the pump and people facing record heating bills next winter.

For the second time in three weeks, President Bush on Friday called on Congress to lift a moratorium that has blocked energy development over 80 percent of the country's coastal waters and to allow drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge that environmentalists have fought successfully for decades to protect.

A few months ago, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the far northeastern corner of Alaska was considered a dead issue. Bush has argued for drilling in the refuge since he first stepped into the White House, but opponents repeatedly have voted it down in the Senate.

Auto Repair

And the idea of opening the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, or the eastern Gulf off Florida's beaches to oil and gas companies has equally been long seen as a nonstarter. A succession of presidents from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to the current president have sided against drilling in these waters as has Congress each year for 27 years, seeking to protect beaches and coastal states' tourist economies.

But that seems to be changing.

High crude oil and gasoline prices are affecting everything from food costs and summer vacations to the ability of volunteers to provide food to the homebound elderly.

America clearly is anxious and angry over energy.

And that has prompted Republican calls for more domestic oil and natural gas production to resonate - even in areas once thought securely off limits for environmental reasons - although no oil would be expected to actually flow for close to a decade, if then.


Nearly half of the people surveyed by the Pew Research Center in late June said they now consider energy exploration and drilling more important than conservation, compared with a little over a third who felt that way only five months ago. The sharpest shift in attitude came among political liberals.

The message has reached Democrats.

"Let me be clear. Democrats support the domestic production of petroleum and other energy resources," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland declared the other day, then repeated himself for emphasis.

"When it comes to drilling, we're for it, no problem," added Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.

But new drilling means something different to congressional Democrats than it does to Republicans.

Democrats argue that oil companies aren't going after the oil where they already have leases, so why open new, protected areas. Democrats say there are 68 million acres of federal land and waters where oil and gas companies hold leases, but aren't producing oil.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, calls lifting the offshore drilling moratorium "a hoax, subterfuge, a decoy" that won't lower gasoline prices and won't produce any more oil anytime soon.

[to top of second column]


But many energy experts say the Democrats' claim that oil companies are sitting on millions of acres of federal oil and gas leases also is questionable - and irrelevant when it comes to responding to high fuel costs. Often the leasing, permitting and exploration phase takes years - time during which leases technically would not be considered productive.

Even if new areas are opened for development, or companies are forced to pursue production in leases they hold, there is likely to be no impact on oil and gasoline prices.

Randall Luthi, who heads the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service that operates the federal offshore energy leasing program, is a proponent of expanding offshore oil and gas production including in some areas now off limits.

However, he says, "It will be 5 to 10 years or longer for actual production" even if leases are made available today.


Still, Bush and other Republicans pushing for lifting the coastal drilling moratorium argue that fencing off billions of barrels of available crude oil when the United States already imports about 60 percent of its oil is unwise at a time of growing global demand and uncertain supplies.

But how much oil is there?

The Interior Department estimates 18 billion barrels of recoverable oil likely will be found beneath coastal waters now off limits, or about 50 percent more than has been pumped from the Prudhoe Bay fields on Alaska's North Slope since it opened in 1977.

Luthi says that is a "very conservative estimate" based on limited seismic studies conducted more than 25 years ago.

But unlike Prudhoe Bay oil, this oil is scattered with more than half believed to be off the West Coast where states are less likely to go along with offshore drilling. Only 3.8 billion barrels are said to be off the Atlantic coast where some states, principally Virginia, have shown an interest in offshore energy production.


While none of that oil will be pumped for years to come, if ever, the call for more domestic energy production seems like the thing to do at a time when people want action, whatever it might be, in response to having to pay up to $100 to fill a gas tank.

The political backlash could be severe.


EDITOR'S NOTE - H. Josef Hebert has covered energy and environmental policy for The Associated Press since 1990.

[Associated Press; By H. JOSEF HEBERT]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor