House Approves Offshore Drilling Bill

WASHINGTON, DC, September 17, 2008 (ENS) - Legislation to increase domestic energy supplies through expanded offshore drilling and investment in renewable energy and conservation won approval in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday by a vote of 236-189.

If passed by the Senate and signed by the president, the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act will allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters more than 100 miles off the coast and provide for drilling between 50-100 miles off the coast at the discretion of individual states.

Senate approval before the November election is considered unlikely.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who has opposed offshore drilling in the past, now supports this bill, which she said Tuesday, "will be significant in ensuring American energy independence and strengthening our national security."

"This energy legislation is the result of reasonable compromise that will put us on the path toward energy independence by expanding domestic supply, protect consumers with strong action to lower the costs of energy and to protect taxpayers by making Big Oil pay for its fair share of our transition to a clean, renewable energy future, ensure a clean, green future through energy efficiency and conservation, and commit America to renewable energy and help create millions of good-paying green jobs."

"The offshore drilling provisions would result in 85 percent of the total oil available on the Outer Continental Shelf being open for leasing - while still protecting our beaches and critical coastal industries," Pelosi said.

"It would expand our available oil by at least two billion barrels - nearly four years' worth of the oil produced offshore in America and enough to power one million cars for 60 years," she said.

But House Republicans, some of whom sought offshore drilling in a high profile series of speeches during the summer recess, do not support the measure.

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio called the bill "another 'no-energy' energy bill." He said Monday that the measure "pretends to promote drilling in deep-ocean waters but actually contains zero incentives for coastal states to allow drilling operations."

Because the House bill cuts states out of any share of royalties that companies would pay on oil and gas produced offshore, even legislators who support offshore drilling doubt that their states will allow it.

Representative Thelma Drake, a Virginia Republican called the bill "cruel" and a "hoax."

"Pelosi's bill keeps the federal prohibition on energy production in place for the first 50 miles. It gives the states the option of opening up from 50 to 100 miles for exploration, but does not offer revenue sharing, depriving states like Virginia the incentive to actually opt in," said Drake.

"Since 88 percent of the known oil and natural gas reserves are inside 50 miles and portions of the OCS [outer continental shelf] beyond 100 miles production may not be economically viable, almost 88 percent of our natural resources would be permanently locked away," she said.

Pelosi said the measure will "rearrange the financial relationship between the American people, their oil, and Big Oil."

On September 9, Pelosi said what is needed is "a change of the relationship between our oil, which is owned by the American people, the desire of Big Oil for us to subsidize their drilling, and us not to, the American people not getting the benefit of the profits."

"So more drilling, no subsidies, and we want our royalties in order to pay for investments in renewable energy resources, make a strong commitment to LIHEAP and the land and conservation fund," she said.

"And if you oppose that, what are you saying? 'I'm for drilling and for subsidized Big Oil and I want all of the profits to go to Big Oil,'" Pelosi said.

Texas Democratic Congressman Gene Green, one of the bill's sponsors said it would "lower energy costs for consumers by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; increase research, development, and deployment of clean renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies; and invest in critical programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, public transportation, and carbon capture and sequestration research."

The bill establishes renewable energy tax credits and includes $18 billion in tax cuts to encourage green technology development and energy independence. It creates financial incentives for natural gas vehicles and energy efficient homes.

{Photo: Oil production platform in U.S. waters courtesy Minerals Management Service.}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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