The Gulf of Mexico is one of the few domestic areas U.S government allows drilling, and after Hurricane Katrina wiped out most of those facilities, consumers are paying at the pump for concentrating energy production in vulnerable areas.
The Department of Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing Tuesday on gasoline prices and factors contributing to current high prices. Rebecca Watson, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management for the U.S. Department of the Interior, presented testimony about Hurricane Katrina’s impact on domestic energy production. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Mexico previously accounted for 29% of domestic oil production and 21% of domestic gas production. Watson presented a map of the Gulf area, with large black dots indicating energy facilities affected by the hurricane, in the New Orleans area. East of Alabama, no facilities were marked.
Sen. Craig (R-Idaho) pointedly asked, “How come there are no marks in Florida? Is there simply no oil there?”
Watson replied there was a substantial amount of oil in that area, but a moratoria prohibits drilling in those areas. “The New Orleans area is the only port where we can produce,” she said.
Congress enacted restrictions in 1981 on oil and gas leasing in “sensitive areas” of the OCS. Louisiana and Alabama’s coastal waters are one few places government allows domestic energy production. The moratoria blocks drilling on the east and west coasts of the U.S., Bristol Bay, Alaska and most of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
At the hearing Democrats supported enacting price controls and railed against excessive “windfall” profits by private energy companies to lower gas prices. Republicans suggested lifting regulation and advocated drilling ANWAR and other oil-rich areas to make more resources available. Human events Assistant Editor Amanda B. Carpenter asked Democrats whether they would consider the latter option.
Would you support opening up ANWR, or any other domestic land, for drilling to reduce gas prices?
Assistant Minority Leader Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.): No. The United States is only in control of 3% of the world’s oil supply. We need better policies to encourage new technology that could be used to create jobs. We have to stop using our SUV’s and trucks and be more economical.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.): No, I would not support such measures. This has already been decided. I am not supportive of drilling in Alaska because it would not alleviate current problems because there is simply not enough oil. We are already operating at capacity and our efforts are better directed at conserving resources.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D.-N.M.): No, I would not support drilling in Alaska. But, most public lands are not closed to drilling and I do support leasing other areas to land management agencies for drilling.