The Gang of 10 now rolls 16 deep. Six more Senators, three Democrats and three Republicans, joined the original gang of ten Senators seeking to expand offshore drilling, albeit the production expansion would be limited and taxes would be raised over $80 billion to promote renewable sources of energy. Repealing tax breaks for oil companies would be a part of the strategy to raise this money.
President Bush did his part by repealing presidential restrictions on offshore drilling, an executive moratorium that was in place for nearly twenty years. And although a bi-partisan effort to get the Congressional ball rolling in the right direction should be applauded, it would be better if nothing was done at all. The majority of the plan focuses on the same tried and failed tax hikes, tax incentive gimmicks, and subsidies from the 1970s that led us to be in this position in the first place.
Currently, the only thing that stands between us and 19 billion barrels of oil and 83.9 trillion cubic feet of that non-fossil-fuel natural gas stuff is time. On October 1st, the Congressional ban on offshore drilling is set to expire; many are calling this American Energy Freedom Day. Lifting the ban wasn’t a priority eight years ago when you could go the gas station and fill up your Hummer for twenty beans. Heritage policy expert Ben Lieberman writes that there’s great potential with little risk:
“Improved technologies have allowed this oil to be extracted with minimal risk of spills. Indeed, natural seepage from the sea floor is a much larger source of oil in American waters than is offshore drilling. Even safer technologies would be used in any future production.”
High gas prices have shifted the public’s opinion on offshore drilling. According to a Wall Street Journal/ NBC News Poll the public support for offshore drilling is now at 63%. Even California is coming around on drilling. That’s right, California. The Board of Supervisors in California’s Santa Barbara County, the beacon of opposition to offshore drilling due in large part to one of the country’s largest oil spills, voted to support new coastal oil exploration and extraction. In fact, there’s actual scientific evidence that drilling can help the environment because it will significantly reduce the leaks from oil seeps. The letter of support that will be sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to consider a change in policy had this to say:
“Since the traumatic oil spill in 1969, significant technological improvements on methods of extraction have been made which should appreciably mitigate such spills from happening in the future.”
A change in policy for offshore drilling would certainly be welcomed, but not at the expense of the American taxpayer. A compromise can only go so far and limited expansion to offshore drilling paired with more subsidies and tax credits for unsuccessful sources of energy isn’t the right way to go. If this is the only policy on the table, it would be more prudent for Congress to allow these anti-energy restrictions expire and have the Department of Interior commence leasing these areas to the energy companies. With the Gang of 16 proposal, for every one step we take forward, we’re taking two steps back. The countdown is on.