Congress Passes One Slice Of Off-shore Loaf

Congress Needlessly Ties States Hands, Says NCPA Expert

DALLAS (December 14, 2006) - In one of its final acts, Congress voted to end a quarter-century offshore drilling ban and allow energy companies to tap natural gas and oil beneath waters in a small region of the Gulf of Mexico.  While this move is a long overdue step in the right direction, it is a disappointingly small step, according to National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett.

"Everyone should be glad that we will finally get some additional access to off-shore deposits of oil - oil, which in the long run modestly improves our energy independence - but we should at the same time be outraged that the bill passed by Congress is best described as baby steps," said Burnett.  "This isn't a case of half-a-loaf being better than no loaf but rather, a single slice being better than no bread at all."

Burnett noted that Congress bypassed the House version of off-shore drilling - which would have opened U.S. waters 100 miles off shore from New England to Alaska and could have more than doubled our current reserves of oil at a time when energy independence is a top concern. 

According to Burnett, the bill's other main drawback is the way it dictates to the state the programs on which they must spend their shares of the oil revenue, saying "its federal micromanaging of the worse kind."

"The federal government was right to share the royalties from off-shore drilling with the states; it secures their buy-in and shows an understanding that it is they that truly bear the relatively small risk of environmental harm that off-shore production entails.  To then specify in detail the kinds of programs they must spend this revenue on is an affront to their Governor's and legislatures understanding of the most vital needs of their states.

"While some of the money from off-shore oil and gas production would likely have gone to shoreline protection and wildlife habitat and environmental programs, the state's should be allowed to spend the revenue on their most vital needs - be it education, infrastructure building or rebuilding (as the case may be in the aftermath of various hurricanes), law enforcement, economic development, tax relief or whatever their citizens think is most vital - Washington does not have all the answers and should not dictate spending decisions to the states as if they did."