Q&A With Congess: Democrats Oppose Off-Shore Drilling

As Ann Coulter pointed out last week, the Democratic Party has long pursued a strategy designed to force up the price of gasoline for American families.

Part of this strategy is to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling off the East and West coasts of the United States, thus artificially limiting the domestic supply.

Back in 1982, according to the Energy Information Agency, Congress enacted a moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the coast of Northern California. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush ordered the Department of Interior not to allow any new drilling off virtually all the rest of the East and West coasts until 2000. Some drilling was still allowed in the Gulf of Mexico, but not off the coast of Florida. In 1998, President Clinton ordered that President Bush’s moratorium be continued until 2012.

Many Republicans in Congress want to lift this moratorium. House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R.-Calif.) is pushing legislation that would allow each state to decide individually if it wants drilling off its shores. But congressional Democrats, led by liberal House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), are adamantly opposed to developing our domestic oil supplies to counter escalating gasoline prices.

I’m with Human Events and we’ve talked about lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling on the East and West coasts. Is that something you would support?

House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R.-Calif.): Yes, but what we are moving is a bill that basically turns over to the states the ability to decide whether they want development off their shore. If you do that, you will end up with a number of states that will allow it.

What states do you think will go for that?

Pombo: Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia have already indicated that they want to do that.

How much do you think that will help the oil supply?

Pombo: That will help dramatically. The immediate difference it makes is on natural gas, which is a bigger problem than the oil prices, because natural gas impacts the entire economy and that’s where we would have the most immediate impact and it would be huge.

When could we expect that?

Pombo: We’re going to move a bill this year. Whether or not we can get it through the Senate, I think, is the big question, but I believe the House will pass a bill this year.

Is lifting the moratorium on oil drilling off the East and West coasts on the table to increase the supply of oil?

House Energy Chairman Joe Barton (R.-Tex.): Chairman Pombo of the Resources Committee has jurisdiction on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and what he’s thinking about doing, what my understanding is, is to give the states sort of an opt-in on a state-by-state basis. They can decide to allow drilling in the federal OCS off their shores, and if they did, states would get an increased royalty share.

Would you support lifting that?

Barton: Oh sure, sure. We have up to a 100 billion barrels of oil and gas in the OCS and in ANWR that are off-limits right now, and that would help our supply a lot.

Doesn’t the oil moratorium put in place by Bush Sr., extended by President Clinton until 2012, that essentially prohibits drilling off the East and West coasts hurt the [oil] supply? Would you support lifting that moratorium?

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D.-Wash.): I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to—

Cantwell aide: Offshore.

Cantwell: Oh, offshore?


Cantwell: Listen, the United States has 3% of the world’s oil reserves, okay? And we have seen, if we think we are going to drill, why are the gas prices in Washington State higher? Because those prices out of Alaska end up getting set on the world market, okay? So, now we’re going to get 3% or whatever the United States has? Do you think we’re going to control the world market by having that? No. So, my point is that you know, I’m not saying that in every case the answer is no, but go and be aggressive about the alternative fuel market so you have some competition to gasoline prices. Because right now you don’t have any competition, and we have places like China and India and other places eating up demand. We are just going to continue to get squeezed, so now is the time to be much more aggressive about alternative fuels.

Would you support lifting the moratorium on offshore oil drilling on the East and West coasts?

Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.): Would I support it? Absolutely.

Would you support lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling on the East and West coasts?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.): No.

No? Now, I’m not trying to be cheeky, but doesn’t that artificially inflate the price if we can’t drill because of legislation?

Feinstein: No, not necessarily at all. The fact of the matter is California is at refining capacity. They couldn’t refine more if we had it.

Even if we opened it up?

Feinstein: No.

And opened more refineries?

Feinstein: Well, that’s not the issue here. The issue is should there be drilling off the coast of California, and Californians have spoken and they don’t want it. So the answer is no.

I’ve been looking at the oil moratorium on offshore drilling on the East and West coasts. Would you support lifting that to increase the oil supply?

Sen. Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.): I think we should give the states the option.

I just talked with Mr. Pombo, and he said there’s actually going to be a bill in the House that will do that. Do you think that will have a chance of passing the Senate?

Gregg: I don’t know. There’s certainly more interest in it now than there has been in the past. There’s also resistance to it. Obviously there’s the issue with Florida, but there’s states like Virginia that have expressed a desire to do it.

Would you support lifting [the moratorium on oil drilling off the East and West coasts] to immediately impact gas prices and drive them down?

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.): Absolutely not. What we have to do, what our nation has to do, is make a decision to be energy independent. We should be spending our energy dollars on the Middle West, not the Middle East. Mr. [James] Clyburn [D.-S.C.] and Congresswoman [Rosa] DeLauro [D.-Conn.] talked about alternative energy sources where we and our own agriculture area would be able to have sources of oil that would reduce our dependence on foreign oil. They’re [Republicans are] thinking so tiny, tiny, small. They have to think beyond that. They have got to think of our national security, our economy, our environment, and they have got to think about America’s consumers. As long as they are only thinking big oil, they will come up with these small solutions.

Rep. James Clyburn (D.-S.C): Let me say something else about that. Let’s go back to the State of the Union. The President said in the State of the Union Address that we must get rid of our addiction to oil. He didn’t say foreign oil, he said addiction to oil. So then why are we going to spend time and resources drilling for more oil, be it ANWR or off the East or West coast? Why aren’t we developing alternatives to oil? And we can do it within five years. I have spent the whole break working with colleges and universities on what we need to do going forward, hydrogen fuel cells, what we need to do with biofuels. I have coming into South Carolina, this coming weekend, Gov. Schweiker of Montana who will be at South Carolina State College spending a day there talking about alternatives to oil. [Iowa] Gov. Vilsack will be coming, talking about corn and soybeans. We know that rural farmers can be a part of making this country energy independent, and that’s where we ought to be spending our resources. That’s where we ought to be spending our money, not finding other sources of oil. You don’t get rid of the addiction by changing the brand.