July 15, 2008
Bush and Pelosi spar on OCS drilling
In a bit of election year theater, President George W. Bush yesterday took to the Rose Garden to declare that he had issued a memorandum to lift the executive prohibition on oil exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf.
In itself, the move had no immediate effect, because Congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980s.
It did, though, serve as another shot in ongoing partisan bickering about high gasoline prices and how to respond to them.
According to President Bush, "experts believe that these restricted areas of the OCS could eventually produce nearly 10 years' worth of America's current annual oil production."
The President also noted that "advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills."
"Last month," said the President, "I asked Congress to lift this legislative ban and allow the exploration and development of offshore oil resources."
With today's action, he said. "the executive branch's restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away. This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress."
The Bush move produced an entirely predictable response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
"Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil," she said.
"The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence. It just gives millions more acres to the same companies that are sitting on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas," said Speaker Pelosi.
"If the President wants to bring down prices in the next two weeks, not the next two decades, he should free our oil by releasing a small portion of the more than 700 million barrels of oil we have put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," she said.
"It's time to tell the oil industry: 'You already have millions of acres to drill. Use it or lose it.'"
In the days ahead we can expect more exchanges like these. The chances of any meaningful Congressional discussion on lifting the ban are seen as zero until after the November election.