Bush calls on Congress to lift offshore ban

18 June 2008 18:22  [Source: ICIS news]

Bush urged Congress to lift offshore drilling banWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--President George Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to lift its 27-year-old ban on energy development in most US outer continental shelf (OCS) regions, saying there is no excuse for the drilling ban with gasoline at $4/gal.


In what was clearly an election year bid to paint Democrats in Congress as obstacles to lower fuel prices, Bush charged that Democrats have blocked Republican-led efforts to expand domestic energy production.


In a statement at the White House, Bush said that in the long run the US must develop alternative energy resources, but “in the short run, the American economy will continue to relay largely on oil, and that means we need to increase supply, especially here at home”.


“So my administration has repeatedly called on Congress to expand domestic oil production,” Bush said.


He added: “Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected every virtually every proposal - and now Americans are paying the price at the pump for this obstruction.”


“Unless members of Congress are willing to accept gas prices at today’s painful levels - or even higher - our nation must produce more oil, and we must start now,” Bush said.


Bush said he is calling on Congress to take four measures, including an end to the offshore drilling ban, open leasing for development of vast oil shale resources in US western states, authorise drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and to ease the federal and state government permitting processes for new refinery construction and expansion of existing refineries.


Bush noted that oil shale deposits in the Green River Basin that straddles Colorado, Utah and Wyoming holds the equivalent of some 800bn barrels of oil.


US continental shelf regions off the East and West Coasts and along Alaska’s lengthy coastline are estimated to hold some 86bn barrels of oil and more than 420,000bn cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas.  The US consumes 8bn barrels of oil annually - importing 60% of it - and more than 22,000bcf of natural gas.


American petrochemical producers and their downstream customers are heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and have been pleading with Congress for several years to open the closed OCS areas to development.


Those outer continental shelf regions also are closed to energy development under a presidential executive order, first issued in 1990 by then-President George H. W. Bush and continued by every president since.


In his statement on Wednesday, Bush said he would revoke that executive order as soon as Congress votes to lift its ban on offshore drilling.


Bush’s appeal to Congress came a day after the presumed Republican candidate for president in this year’s national elections, Senator John McCain of Arizona, called for an end to the offshore drilling prohibitions.


As Bush was preparing to speak on Wednesday, Democrat leaders in the House of Representatives postponed an Appropriations Committee meeting that was to hold a vote today on whether to lift the offshore drilling ban. 


Sources on the Hill said the committee meeting was postponed because Democrats did not want to be seen voting against the energy measure.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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