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Drilling isn’t off the table…yet

Despite Barack Obama’s threats to overturn a Bush Administration executive order allowing oil exploration on 360,000 acres in Utah, thus far Congress isn’t showing interest in reinstating their offshore drilling moratorium…yet.

I did have an interest in reinstating the fold, though.

In response to a question today following remarks at the National Press Club, House Majority Leader (and Maryland 5th District Congressman) Steny Hoyer noted (h/t CQ Politics.com and Bob McCarty):

We believe it is absolutely essential to have an energy policy which is, as I said in my speech, not driven by the temporary reduction of prices at the pump, which are hard to explain, hard to explain how you go down about half within a very short period of time and spike up in that short period of time, as well.

Now, as it relates to the moratoria, which was not renewed, as you know, in the continuing resolution which was passed in the latter part of September, I think there will be efforts to look at further ways to delineate areas available for drilling.

I do not believe at this point in time that there are any proposals being made to reinstate the moratoria across the board. (Emphasis mine.)

Hoyer then answered a follow-up:

I think I answered both those questions in response to your question. But having said that — that’s all right.

Having said that, I don’t think there is any intent at this point in time — there are no — nobody is suggesting that we return to the same position we were in on September 28th or 27th or 26th.

But I think there will be real discussion on the parameters in which drilling will be pursued.

There was a GAO report out, by the way — I think maybe some of you saw it not too long ago which raised the same question that we had raised about the 68 million acres that are currently authorized. Now, of course, all the acreage is open over — outside the 3-mile or 12- mile limit.

So I think the answer to your question is, we’re going to be looking at parameters, not necessarily reinstatement of the existing moratoria prior to the president’s lifting it and then the restriction that was in — in the interior appropriation bill of ‘08.

There was a lot more to Hoyer’s speech and I will come back to touch on another part later this week. But I can parse through words reasonably well for a guy with a public-school education and I smell a rat. I believe there are two possible outcomes with Hoyer’s statements: one is where they bring back the idea of offshore drilling but only on sites over 100 miles out (the so-called “Gang of Sixteen” plan), the other attuned to my emphasis on his “at this point in time” comment. Right now the Democrats are more interested in bailing out the Big Three and probably figure correctly that their environmentalist allies can wait another month or two to get a Congress and President much more friendly to their interests. Let’s face it, there’s a lot less interest in “drill here, drill now, pay less” when gas is $1.90 a gallon than there was when the price at the pump was double that. And oil companies haven’t been moving on exploration despite the lifting of the ban because it’s foolhardy business to begin the process when a majority of Congress (but not the public as a whole) favor rescinding the open season. Despite the Democrats’ anti-drilling views, voters still placed them in the Congressional majority.

The American Petroleum Institute also weighed in on Hoyer’s remarks (h/t Jane Van Ryan of API):

We believe the position outlined to news reporters by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer – that the Democratic leadership would not seek to re-impose the ban on oil and natural gas leasing in federal waters – is the right approach. The American public has made clear its strong support for increased access to untapped domestic oil and natural gas resources. At least two-thirds of Americans in recent exit polling said they supported offshore drilling. Neither Congress nor the next administration should set unreasonable, arbitrary limits on leasing because such restrictions could remove some of the nation’s most promising oil and natural gas prospects for development, and the industry has proven it can develop these resources in an environmentally safe manner. The industry stands ready to help put America’s vast energy resources to good use to strengthen our nation’s economy and energy security, generate billions of dollars for the benefit of our federal and state treasuries and provide good jobs for Americans across the country.

Now I’ve never met Congressman Hoyer; perhaps he’s a nice guy. But when he says there’s no intent at this point in time to restore the exploration ban I trust him about as far as I can throw him. Nothing personal, but he is a liberal Democrat and for whatever reason they put environmental concerns and the phantom idea of global warming ahead of our energy and transport needs and job creation. (Given that it’s 33 degrees out right now and we’re only supposed to hit maybe 45 tomorrow – January weather in the middle of November – global warming doesn’t sound so bad to me “at this point in time.”) And while Democrats and the Bush Administration argue over where the $25 billion requested as a bailout by the Big Three comes from, it’s worth noting that Exxon/Mobil’s yearly tax bill covers that sum with plenty to spare.

I can’t say when it will happen, but sooner or later the price of gasoline is going to edge up toward the $3 and $4 mark again, and once again we’ll be able to place the blame squarely where it’s belonged – on the shoulders of the Congressional majority who takes more notice of Al Gore’s inconvenience than the inconvenience of the American public.

Crossposted on monoblogue.






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