NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 8, 2007

The Bush Administration has introduced a new plan for offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, which it touts as a "major initiative."  Predictably enough, the environmentalists are in hysterics.  But it's hard to tell what the fuss is about, says the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Interior Department's proposal:

  • The program recommends opening an additional 48 million acres to drilling, including 12 sites in the Gulf of Mexico, eight in Alaskan waters and one 50 miles off the coast of Virginia.
  • If all the projects go forward, they have the potential to yield 10 billion barrels of oil and 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over 40 years.

This is a step toward greater domestic energy production but only a small one, says the Journal: 

  • The continental shelf is estimated to contain 420 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas and 86 billion barrels of oil.
  • Of its 1.76 billion acres, over 85 percent remains off-limits.

Further, this is only a preliminary, tentative program, and all leases are subject to stringent environmental and commercial reviews, says the Journal.  It will be years before any of the new sites begin producing, if they ever do.

Nevertheless, environmentalists are furious at even this baby step.  They know that assuming at least partial success, it could lead to more domestic exploration by states such as Virginia, who are looking to explore.  These objections are from the same people who claim that the United States must urgently become "energy independent," says the Journal.  Yet America is one of the few nations in the world that chooses to lock up its natural resources.

Source: Editorial, "Drill Bit," Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2007.


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