NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 14, 2006

Much of America's remaining large deposits of oil and natural gas lie offshore.  Unfortunately, other than portions of the Gulf of Mexico, coastal areas are off-limits to new oil and gas exploration and production due to various federal moratoria.  Lifting these prohibitions would be one of the most effective actions Congress could take to ensure long-term economic growth while also decreasing America's vulnerability to foreign powers, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has estimated that the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) contains:

  • More than 85 billion barrels of oil, quadruple current U.S. reserves.
  • More than 419 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Accordingly, Congress and the president should allow new offshore exploration and production.  Indeed, the United States is the only industrialized country with substantial coastlines not actively seeking new offshore oil and gas deposits.  Canada and even economically-backward Cuba are moving forward with plans to drill in offshore areas that abut U.S. coastal waters.  Since pools of oil do not respect international boundaries, it is almost certainly true that Canada and Cuba will be accessing oil that could otherwise be developed by and benefit Americans, says Burnett.

Congress should put America's energy security and economic needs ahead of the desires of powerful environmental lobbyists.  Ending the moratoria on OCS oil and gas exploration and production -- with state revenue sharing -- would be a positive step in that direction, says Burnett.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "In the Public Interest: Tapping the Outer Continental Shelf," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 563, July 14, 2006.

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