Republican senators launch bid for US offshore oil

01 May 2008 23:44  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Republican senators introduced an energy bill on Thursday that would lift longstanding bans on oil and gas drilling in US offshore areas and in Alaska, saying the measure is needed to ease the US energy crisis.


Senator Pete Domenici (Republican-New Mexico) and 19 other Republican senators said they are introducing The American Energy Production Act of 2008 “to dramatically increase domestic production of oil and natural gas in order to lower prices and make America less dependent on foreign sources of oil”.


The legislation was quickly hailed by the chemical industry and broader manufacturing interests that depend heavily on natural gas as a feedstock or energy resource.


The bill, S-2958, would allow US states with coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to petition Congress to lift the moratorium that since 1982 has barred energy development in the resource-rich outer continental shelf regions off those coasts.


In addition, the measure would free federal funds to advance leasing and development of vast reserves of oil shale in US western states and mandate production of 6bn gal/year of coal-to-liquids transportation fuel by 2022.


In what is certain to be its most controversial element, the bill also would establish an oil and gas leasing programme in part of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.  Development of energy resources in ANWR has long been vehemently opposed by environmentalists and many in Congress.


Domenici, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, argued that with oil near $120/bbl and the US increasingly dependent on foreign sources, the country cannot afford the luxury of continuing to ignore its own extensive energy resources.


He said oil reserves now under congressional moratoria off the East and West coasts and in Alaska are sufficient to meet US energy needs for five years without imports.


“For years now I have been trying to develop more domestic production of oil and gas, and for years … I have been blocked for political reasons,” Domenici said.  “Consumers are now paying the price for those years of obstruction.”


He pointed out that if former President Bill Clinton had not vetoed legislation in 1995 that would have initiated energy development in ANWR, “America would currently be receiving over 1m barrels a day from Alaska”.  The US consumes nearly 21m bbls/day of oil, chiefly for transportation fuels, and imports 60% of its oil from other nations.


The American Chemistry Council (ACC) welcomed the legislation, saying that Domenici’s bill “gets to the root of the problem - we do not have enough energy supplies to meet the nation’s energy needs”.


The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also welcomed the measure, saying it is “an important step toward a comprehensive domestic energy policy that is needed for the long-term health of manufacturing and the US economy”.


Prospects for the legislation in the Democrat-majority Congress appear dim.  Major Democrat leaders, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, remain adamantly opposed to offshore drilling.

By: Joe Kamalick
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