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Congressional Leaders Should Allow Oil Exploration in the OSC

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Congressional Leaders Should Allow Oil Exploration in the OSC

This week marks the 5th straight week of a decrease in gas prices as Alabamians are now paying about $3.55 per gallon of gasoline, according to AAA.

What many people won't tell you is that this gradual decline began with President Bush's lifting of the executive order banning off-shore exploration on July 14th, even though a congressional ban still remains in place.

Gas prices have eased somewhat in recent weeks amid a revamped debate on energy. But gas prices still remain high in historical terms. This week's national average price is more than $1 higher than it was a year ago.

As many Americans have watched, several pro-American energy House members have taken to the floor of the U.S. House, despite the continuation of the August recess, to demand a genuine debate on the most important issue facing Americans today. Many of my colleagues and I have stood with the American people in a nationwide protest against Speaker Pelosi's decision to adjourn the House back on August 1st without a vote on the energy solutions Americans are demanding.

This protest appears to be working in light of the fact that the Speaker's recent television interview that seemed to indicate a reversal of her opposition to a vote on offshore drilling. On the Larry King Live show, she signaled that she would consider a vote if it were part of a larger energy package.

Even though this news appears promising, actions always speak louder than words. The Speaker and the other House Leaders could confirm her intentions to the American people by bringing the House back into session immediately and working to pass a serious energy plan to bring down prices at the pump.

On July 31st, I introduced a resolution that addresses the cost of high-gasoline prices that includes many different energy options. The resolution, which is called the "Enhancing Energy Independence Resolution" (H.Con.Res. 401), expresses that America can become more energy independent using today's technology without massive taxpayer expenditures.

In this column, I will talk about one topic that my resolution addresses about in great detail, exploration in the Offshore Continental Shelf (OCS).

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) consists of the submerged lands, subsoil and seabed lying under the ocean. The United States OCS has been divided into four leasing regions, and the Department of Interior has authority over the OCS, which includes most areas more than three miles offshore. The regions are the Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, the Atlantic OCS Region, the Pacific OCS Region and the Alaska OCS Region.

Drilling is currently banned on 85 percent of the OCS because Congress restricted many offshore areas through annual Department of the Interior Appropriations, beginning in 1982.

The United States is the only country in the world to restrict access to its OCS energy resources, even though Cuba currently leases land for oil exploration off our Florida coast. If Cuba is exploring on this land, why shouldn't we?

The parts of the OCS closed to exploration are estimated to contain 16.6 billion barrels of oil and 59 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

For those who argue that there would be oil seepage from the oil rig production, they should know that 63 percent of oil seepages in American waters are actually from natural causes, 32 percent are from cars and boats and fewer than 1 percent are from drilling according to The National Academy of Sciences.

In addition, modern offshore drilling rigs are so hurricane-resistant that even Hurricane Katrina failed to cause any significant spillage of oil from rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

The OCS extends 200 miles from the coasts of the United States, and most energy proposals only propose exploration beyond 20 miles, which would mean that it would not be visible with the human eye.

Earlier this year, I co-sponsored H.R. 6108, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act. This is a bill that would allow each coastal state to decide whether and where it wants drilling off its coast out to 100 miles. Beyond 100 miles from the coast, states would not have veto power; thus, deepwater areas would be open to exploration and production.

Despite the bill having 105 co-sponsors, it has yet to be allowed to come to a vote.

I call on our Congressional Leaders to bring a vote on this and other energy-producing legislation on the House floor so that we can have a serious debate on methods to bring down the price of gasoline by increasing our energy supply.

Over the following weeks, I plan to continue to discuss more options that Congress is considering in order to drive down the price of oil. As always, I appreciate your thoughts and input on this important issue.


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