The 2009 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) is wrapping up in Houston, Texas and unsurprisingly, the message down here remains: drill, baby, drill. But that message has been echoed by panelists from both sides of the aisle. Despite reinstatement of the bans on offshore drilling and no mention of offshore drilling in the Waxman-Markey energy bill, $4-a-gallon gas still lingers in the back of peoples’ minds. One panelist at OTC said parents kids remind their parents constantly about the vacation they had to cancel. High gas prices ate away at consumers’ disposable income and that frustration, despite a considerable amount of time passing since gas prices have been exorbitantly high, is still very fresh.

Eliminating bans on offshore drilling has tremendous potential with little risk involved. Considerable improvements in technology have considerably reduced the probability of a spill and minimized the carbon footprint. And the technology continues to get better.

Currently there are government restrictions in place for new energy production off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, parts of offshore Alaska, and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

In these areas alone, the Department of Interior estimates the amount of energy to be: 19.1 billion barrels of oil (30 years with of imports from Saudi Arabia) & 83.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (enough to power America’s homes for 17 years). Will eliminating bans on offshore drilling immediately bring oil to the table? Probably not. Even if it takes years before this oil becomes commercially available, that rhetoric has been stated for years. If we would’ve listened in the first place, we might have access to offshore areas already. Energy demands are projected to soar not only in the U.S. but all over the world; expanding production in America will be critical to meeting that demand.

And the public’s on board. Bruce McQuain at Questions and Observations recalls some encouraging words from API President, Jack Gerard:

[A]s API’s President and CEO, Jack Gerard pointed out, 67% of the American public, when polled, want the exploitation of the oil and gas assets to be found on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and that last week the Florida House passed a bill authorizing drilling off the coast of Florida by a 70-43 margin. That is a huge margin and speaks loudly to the public’s sea change in attitude about offshore drilling.”

The bill now heads to the Senate. Stay tuned.