via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
President Bush lifts executive branch moratorium
on oil and gas drilling in OCS
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or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday rejected calls by President
George Bush to open new offshore areas to oil and gas drilling, indicating
that Democrats will focus instead on advancing bipartisan legislation
to curb speculation some blame for higher energy prices.
“We’ve given the oil companies ample time to increase
supply,” Reid said, after President Bush lifted an executive branch
moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)
and called on Congress to lift its own ban as well. Reid said oil companies
should drill on the tens of million of acres of public land they already
hold leases for. Republicans said they will look to the appropriations
process to block the annual practice of extending the moratorium on
development of the OCS.
Background: The administrative ban on offshore exploration
is one of two hurdles to increased exploration. Congress must also act
to lift its legislative moratorium, to open the 85 percent of the OCS
that is currently off-limits to oil and gas exploration. Congressional
offshore moratoria has been renewed annually as a rider in the Interior
Department appropriations bill since 1982. It will expire Sept. 30 unless
renewed by Congress.
Facts and figures. According to the Minerals Management
Service, there are an estimated 17.8 billion barrels of oil and 76.5
trillion cubic feet of natural gas, in an area covering about 574
million acres, that are currently off limits on the OCS to leasing
and development. The US uses 20 million barrels per day of oil and
petroleum products and 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.
Reid may introduce legislation on Wednesday
to address what he labeled excessive speculation in energy markets,
saying the issue is an area that both parties largely agree on. “We
believe we should start with speculation,” he said. He said the
timing of a floor debate on the matter will depend on the extent of cooperation
Reid said he wants to do a "straight up-or-down attack
on speculation," and suggested it might be the only remaining
item to address gas prices that the two parties can agree on this year.
Meanwhile, Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) on Thursday will hold an open meeting
on energy issues at which Senators will be able to present
their ideas and listen to experts in several areas. The forum will focus
on high costs for gas and home heating oil as well as possible solutions,
a Bingaman spokesman said.
House Democratic leaders plan to offer
a revamped "use it or lose it" package on the
floor Thursday targeting existing areas open for drilling offshore. House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also called on Bush to release some
oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Democrats may not have the votes to extend the congressional ban on development
of the OCS. A recent poll indicated that 65 percent of Americans now support
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retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.