Yesterday, President Obama proposed plans to open offshore drilling and exploration along the southern Atlantic coast, a portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and some of the coast of Alaska. This is a welcome step forward by the previously reluctant administration. Remember that President Bush lifted the ban on drilling offshore in June 2008 and the Congress followed by passing legislation in October 2008 when the cost of gasoline hit $4 per gallon. Having advocated for seven years for the federal government to allow Virginia to safely explore for oil and gas off our coast, it is good to see the president following the law.
We must remember that it was just last year, while the Castro brothers, Russia and China were collaborating to explore 50 miles off the coast of Florida, the Obama administration lent $2 billion of American taxpayer dollars to the state-controlled oil company of Brazil to explore for oil and gas off the Brazilian coast. It was simply illogical for the federal government to continue to prohibit Virginia and other willing States to explore off the U.S. coast and keep us unnecessarily dependent on foreign oil. Most Americans would rather be getting oil and gas from Virginia than Venezuela.
Unfortunately, the president’s plan cancelled future Alaska lease sales scheduled in the Interior Department’s offshore leasing with the exception of the Cook Inlet.
Estimates indicate there could be as much as 3.8 billion barrels of oil and 21.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and another 3.8 billion barrels of oil and 15.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas between the coastlines of Delaware to Florida according to the American Petroleum Institute. The people of Virginia strongly support the proposed Lease Sale 220 which is 50 miles off of Virginia’s coast and scheduled for 2011. There should be no more bureaucratic delays.
The next key step is to share 37.5 percent of the royalties with Virginia to be used for roads and transportation. The precedent is Lease Sale 181 due south of Alabama which we passed while I was serving in the U.S. Senate in 2006. Rep. Bob Goodlatte has introduced a bill to share royalties with Virginia. He has the right idea. Gov. Bob McDonnell has written letters and signed legislation to promote safe exploration and drilling off Virginia’s shore. Most of our Congressional representatives have now joined our bandwagon.
The devil will be in the details of President Obama’s proposal. The fine print for implementation is very important. There should be expeditious permitting and a streamlined scheduled to move this production plan forward. Undue bureaucratic delays will simply anger the American people who are impatient with policies that keep us vulnerable to the whims of hostile dictators, oligarchs, and cartels. Furthermore, any energy policy put forth by the Congress or the White House that includes a job-killing carbon cap-and-trade energy-tax scheme, and that the U.S. Treasury estimates could annually cost $3,000 per family, will be counterproductive to providing Americans with affordable energy and would continue to restrict our American economy.
Opening access to our offshore reserves is a good tactical move to improve our energy security. Any subsequent policy that would impose draconian EPA carbon dioxide regulations would result in America’s unilateral economic disarmament. For strategic American energy independence, we need to seize every opportunity to utilize our plentiful coal for electricity, abundant American oil and natural gas, innovative battery technologies and advanced nuclear energy. Opening offshore drilling is a good first step in the right direction. Keep a close eye on the bureaucracy to make sure they stride forward.
George Allen has served Virginia in the House of Delegates, in the U.S. House, as its Governor and in the U.S. Senate. He is Chairman of the American Energy Freedom Center.