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Offshore Drilling: Changing Views

offshore_rig.jpgoffshore_rig.jpgThe idea of drilling offshore for oil has never been particularly popular in the U.S. Historically, both Democrats and a fair number of Republicans have been against it, usually citing environmental concerns. But that was before $4 a gallon gasoline.

These days, the American public is so fed up with higher prices at the pump they’re willing to try anything that even remotely resembles a solution. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have opposed offshore drilling in the past, but this is an election year. While both candidates will admit that drilling may or may not have a significant effect on lowering gas prices, the pressure from voters is too great. People want to think that something, anything, is being done in the short term.

From John McCain’s campaign website:

John McCain Will Commit Our Country to Expanding Domestic Oil Exploration.

The current federal moratorium on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf stands in the way of energy exploration and production. John McCain believes it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use. There is no easier or more direct way to prove to the world that we will no longer be subject to the whims of others than to expand our production capabilities. We have trillions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves in the U.S. at a time we are exporting hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas to buy energy. This is the largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind. We should keep more of our dollars here in the U.S., lessen our foreign dependency, increase our domestic supplies, and reduce our trade deficit - 41% of which is due to oil imports. John McCain proposes to cooperate with the states and the Department of Defense in the decisions to develop these resources.

Here are some excerpts from Barack Obama’s energy plan that deal with oil & gas exploration:

  • A “Use it or Lose It” Approach to Existing Oil and Gas Leases.
  • Obama will require oil companies to develop the 68 million acres of land (over 40 million of which are offshore) which they have already leased and are not drilling on.
  • Promote the Responsible Domestic Production of Oil and Natural Gas.
  • An Obama administration will establish a process for early identification of any infrastructure obstacles/shortages or possible federal permitting process delays to drilling in the Bakken Shale formation, the Barnett shale formation and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
  • Prioritize the Construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline.

As president, Obama will work with stakeholders to facilitate construction of the pipeline. Not only is this pipeline critical to our energy security, it will create thousands of new jobs.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been one of the toughest nuts to crack in the drilling debate. She’s even refused to put the issue up for a vote in the House for the past several months. But just days ago word came that House Democrats are offering a compromise that, according to The Associated Press, will allow for drilling “beyond 50 miles from the coast if a state gives the go-ahead and opens all federal waters 100 miles from land.”

John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate has thrown a monkey wrench into the Arizona Republican’s long-time opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Gov. Palin, like most of her fellow Alaskans, favors drilling in ANWR. In her recent interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Palin said that she and McCain would simply have to “agree to disagree.” Both Barack Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), oppose drilling in ANWR as well.

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