President Bush Symbolically Lifts Ban on Offshore Drilling

By Eliza Strickland | July 14, 2008 4:53 pm

offshore oil rigsIn a largely symbolic but intensely political move, President Bush today lifted the presidential ban on drilling for oil in U.S. coastal waters. The action will have no immediate effect due to a separate congressional ban on offshore drilling that was passed in 1981, but the president urged Congress to revoke that law as well, arguing that the United States needs to increase domestic production of oil to bring down energy prices.

Asserting that “failure to act is unacceptable,” [Bush] said today’s move clears away executive branch restrictions on offshore oil exploration. “This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress,” he said [The Washington Post]. Democrats immediately responded that Bush’s move was simply political theater. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said: “He knows ruining our coastlines won’t bring down gasoline prices nor solve our energy challenges” [Reuters].

Even if the Democrat-controlled Congress were to shock everyone by following the president’s lead on environmental policy, experts say offshore oil drilling would not have an immediate impact on oil prices because oil exploration takes years. “If we were to drill today, realistically speaking, we should not expect a barrel of oil coming out of this new resource for three years, maybe even five years, so let’s not kid ourselves,” said Fadel Gheit, oil and gas analyst [CNN].

The issue has become a point of debate in the presidential campaign as Americans suffer from high oil and gas prices. Republican John McCain recently announced that he supports offshore drilling, while Democrat Barack Obama declared that revoking the ban would have no appreciative effect on gas prices, and said he would invest in renewable energy technology instead.

Offshore drilling has been a hot political issue since a 1969 oil platform blowout off Santa Barbara caused extensive environmental damage and inspired the ban on new exploration off coastal waters except in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and areas off Alaska. Proponents of relaxing the moratorium say that technological improvements have made drilling safer [Los Angeles Times blog].

Image: flickr/Bolero2005

Related Post: You Know What This Spot Could Use? An Oil Well.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment
  • beach bum

    It is coming. There will definitely be new oil exploration, as we pay $4+ per gallon. These prices are just not sustainable, and our backwards country still runs on gas. Too bad we couldn’t listen to the rational predictions that we would be running out of oil in the near future and prepare for this event. Instead we continue to be prisoners to the oil-producing nations, some of whom we wouldn’t dream of supporting otherwise.

    I hope any offshore drilling that comes to be is done as responsibly and sustainably as possible, and that government funds are SIMULTANEOUSLY devoted to alternate energies. Something has got to change permanently! We can’t just buy another decade and think everything will be okay.

  • Oh Really

    WASHINGTON, July 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ? Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on President Bush?s announcement lifting the executive ban on drilling in protected coastal areas:

    ?Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil.

    ?The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence. It just gives millions more acres to the same companies that are sitting on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas.

    ?If the President wants to bring down prices in the next two weeks, not the next two decades, he should free our oil by releasing a small portion of the more than 700 million barrels of oil we have put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

    ?It?s time to tell the oil industry: ?You already have millions of acres to drill. Use it or lose it.??

    SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House

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