US chems lead praise for Bush offshore move

14 July 2008 20:23  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US chemicals industry on Monday joined other manufacturers and the broad business community in welcoming President George Bush’s decision to lift an 18-year-old executive order barring offshore energy development.


Jack Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said Bush’s decision to lift the offshore drilling ban is an historic and positive sign, “a significant step in the right direction for US energy policy”.


Bush announced that he wasrevoking earlier presidential executive orders barring drilling in 85% of the US outer continental shelf (OCS) regions. 


Those orders were first put in force by Bush’s father, former President George HW Bush, and were maintained during the eight-year administration of President Bill Clinton. 


Clinton also vetoed in 1995 an act approved by Congress to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to drilling. That presidential moratorium on offshore drilling was on top of a congressional ban that has been in place since 1981. 


In lifting the presidential ban on Monday, Bush urged Congress to follow suit and end its 28-year-old ban on drilling off the US east and west Coasts and along most of Alaska’s lengthy shoreline.


The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) also welcomed the president’s action and urged Congress to lift its drilling ban.


“This country is facing an energy crisis, and it is imperative that every opportunity to reduce the cost of energy be taken,” said Jay Timmons, NAM executive vice-president. 


“An appropriate place to start is by increasing our access to domestic resources.”


The US Chamber of Commerce also hailed Bush’s decision and urged Congress to do the same.


Chamber executive vice president Bruce Josten noted that the chamber - the largest US business trade group with 3m member firms - has been calling on the White House and Congress since 1993 to lift the bans. 


Had the president and Congress acted then, Josten said, “we would have access to those vast supplies of oil and natural gas today”.


Bush’s announcement was also welcomed by Republican leaders in Congress, but majority Democrat officials slammed the move, accusing Bush of playing politics and pandering to oil companies.


“Drilling in the OCS will do nothing to lower gasoline prices, but it will mean one more handout to those who are already enjoying billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Democrat-Maryland), referring to oil companies.


Unless Congress ends its longstanding offshore drilling ban, the 85% of US OCS regions now closed to development will remain so.


Both bans were put in place in order to protect beaches from possible drilling mishaps and date from a time when oil and gas prices were much lower.


Despite repeated efforts in Congress among pro-drilling elements to end the moratorium, the House has continued to maintain its ban on offshore development.


US chemicals manufacturers - heavily dependent on natgas as a feedstock - have for years been urging the White House and Congress to restore access to vast offshore reserves. 


The OCS regions are believed to hold up to 420,000bn cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas and 86bn bbl of oil - but those estimates are up to 40 years old and no modern seismic surveys have been done in the offshore regions.


($1 = €0.63)


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By: Joe Kamalick
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