ED HENRY, RICHARD GREENE, BRIANNA KEILER, HUSSEIN SADDIQUE, ALI VELSHI, CNN, June 18, 2007
Washington — President Bush asked Congress Wednesday to permit drilling for oil in deep water off America’s coasts to combat rising oil and gas prices.
“There is no excuse for delay,” the president said in a Rose Garden statement.
Bush also renewed his demand that Congress allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, clear the way for more refineries and encourage efforts to recover oil from shale in areas such as the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
Bush said that the basin potentially contains more than three times as much recoverable oil as Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves, and that the high price of oil makes it profitable to extract it.
“In the short run, the American economy will continue to rely largely on oil, and that means we need to increase supply here at home,” said Bush, adding there is no more pressing issue than gas prices for many Americans.
The White House estimates there are 18 billion barrels of oil offshore that have not been exploited because of state bans, 10 billion to 12 billion in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, and 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Green River Basin. However, much of the U.S. oil is difficult or impossible to extract under current law.
As for gas prices, resuming offshore exploration would not be a quick fix.
“If we were to drill today realistically speaking we should not expect a barrel of oil coming out of this new resource for three years, maybe even five years, so let’s not kid ourselves,” said Fadel Gheit, oil and gas analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. Equity Capital Markets Division. But it almost certainly would be profitable.
Candida Scott, an oil industry researcher at Cambridge Research Associates, said oil needs to be priced at $60 a barrel or more to justify deep-shelf drilling. With oil now selling for $134 a barrel, companies are almost assured of profiting from offshore drilling, Scott said.
“For years, the president has pushed Congress to expand our domestic oil supply, but Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked such action,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told CNN before Bush spoke. She added, “As with several existing Republican congressional proposals, he wants to work with states to determine where offshore drilling should occur, and also for the federal government to share revenues with the states. The president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time.” Democrats were quick to reject Bush’s proposal.
“After eight years, President Bush and [Vice President] Dick Cheney have turned the GOP into the Gas and Oil Party. That’s the legacy that they are going to leave,” said Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
“The White House has become a ventriloquist for the oil and gas industry, repeating the requests of the oil and gas industry — that they be allowed to destroy the most pristine areas of our country,” Markey added.
Congressional Democrats last week introduced a bill to compel oil companies to begin utilizing federal land they already lease.
“Oil companies are sitting on 68 million acres they have already leased from the American people for the purpose of oil and natural gas production,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey.
“It is about time they use these resources already at their disposal instead of waiting for more federal handouts and pushing to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or up and down our coasts,” he added.
Bush’s request came a day after presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain issued the same call at a campaign event in Houston, Texas.
“We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States,” he said. “But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.” He said lifting the ban could be done “in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection.”
Opponents of offshore drilling say it would harm aquatic ecosystems by eroding wetlands, contaminating the water with chemicals, polluting the air, killing fish and dumping waste.
McCain made clear that he favors continuing the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a “refuge” for a reason,” he said.
McCain’s plan would let individual states decide whether to explore drilling possibilities.
According to his campaign, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama wants to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to establish a green energy sector, create a national low-carbon fuel standard to ensure that the fuel is more efficient, and invest in clean energies +50 miles off the Florida coast – by Cubans, not Americans, with help from China and other allies. A rich undersea oil field stretches into Cuban waters near the Florida Keys.
“The people I represent can’t understand how we can possibly let China end up with rights to our oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico because we say we’re not going to do it and they say, ‘OK, we’ll do it and we’ll work with Cuba, if we have to, to do it,’” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tennessee. “That’s really asinine.”