By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Energy: In a stunning defeat, congressional Democrats were forced to allow the quarter-century-old offshore drilling ban to expire. But the fight has only begun, with the struggle now shifting to state legislatures.
Read More: Energy
Funny how the Democrat-controlled Congress can’t get the things it wants enacted, can’t even get a single appropriations bill passed, yet minority Republicans this week succeeded in ending a supposedly sacrosanct ban on oil and gas offshore drilling that dates back to the early 1980s.
It was an unexpectedly powerful knockdown of Democrats and their enviro-extremist allies, but they are not yet counted out.
GOP Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina noted in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the possibility that Democrats would “use environmental lawsuits to block exploration until they can reinstate these energy bans after the November elections.” DeMint warned Reid that it “would be a major mistake.”
So with the ban ending, what are the next moves toward reducing America’s dependence on oil from hostile regimes in places such as the Middle East, Russia and leftist Venezuela?
DeMint has introduced a bill to expedite drilling leases, ensure that states share in oil and gas revenues, and prevent frivolous litigation designed to delay exploration for and production of oil.
Meanwhile, some state officials are already looking forward to the benefits for their citizens.
“The potential royalties to our state could be significant and could jump-start our economy in the midst of rising unemployment rates,” South Carolina State Sen. Shane Massey, a Republican, told the Greenville News.
Massey noted that Virginia has already made moves to get into the U.S. Interior Department’s five-year offshore drilling plan.
In California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and leading Golden State Democrats adamantly oppose offshore production, a majority of Californians now favor drilling. Even the board of supervisors of Santa Barbara County, site of an infamous 1969 oil spill, last month voted to support drilling.
There are tens of billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in our Outer Continental Shelf waiting for American consumers. That doesn’t include the 10 billion barrels of oil in the North Slope of Alaska. The oil shale in our Western states could provide hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of barrels of oil, dwarfing the crude reserves of current No. 1 Saudi Arabia.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, is calling the end of the ban just the beginning of a new comprehensive energy policy. The House Republicans’ American Energy Act would expand drilling in remote areas, both on land and at sea, plus employ conservationist measures and promote alternative fuels.
It would also establish a “renewable energy trust fund” financed by oil revenues and use revenue sharing to give states an incentive for increased oil production.
According to Boehner, “If Democrats continue to block a vote on this plan, just as they blocked a real debate and vote on the outdated drilling bans for months on end, Republicans and the American people will hold them accountable.”
Republicans are obviously basking in a congressional victory few expected. With public opinion so transformed, and oil drilling now an issue that Republicans have proved they can use to embarrass Democrats, can this year’s presidential and congressional elections also be transformed to the GOP’s advantage?
The answer will have huge implications not just for energy, but for both our economy and our national security.