Today, the Worldwatch Institute published an article detailing a decline in offshore drilling opposition in sharp contrast to the year 1982 when the drilling moratorium was enacted. Further expansions by George H. W. Bush in 1990 extended the moratorium to include the coasts of Florida, California and New England. With the presidency of Clinton in 1998, the ban was again extended until the year 2012.
During this time, the United States government has went as far as to buy back drilling leases off the coasts of Florida from such companies as Chevron, Conoco, and Murphy. In 2002, the Bush Administration paid $115 million to these companies to drop the offshore claims they held at the request of Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Further settlements were proposed to entities such as the Collier family to relinquish mineral rights held in the Everglades. The government offered $350 million in tax deductions and $120 million in cash for mineral rights that the National Park Services and Department of Interior estimated at $20 million and $43 million, respectively. Besides, opening a few areas within the Gulf of Mexico in 2006, expansion of offshore drilling leases has been mostly stagnant.
Recent oil prices and focus on acquiring less foreign oil has begun to change the consensus on expansion of U.S. offshore drilling. Reports by Rasmussen show that 67% of voters favor offshore drilling while 64% feel more drilling will lower high gas prices. It seems clear to why the majority of Americans now support an increase in offshore drilling. Effects on the pocketbook speak very loudly, but this is not the only reason for the change in attitude towards the long held view of offshore drilling, being environmentally unfriendly.
Lumped alongside the bill to lift the offshore drilling ban, are a few healthy nuggets of environmental stewardship. Consumer tax credits for fuel-efficient and clean energy vehicles, renewable energy tax credits, development of alternative fuel sources, and mass transit funding are just a few of the environmental benefits outlined in a plan that many hope will see a vote during this year’s session. Though most environmental groups still oppose lifting the offshore drilling ban, many feel the added benefits are so beneficial to providing clean energy and healthy environment, that a compromise can be made. If a vote is not exercised before the conclusion of Congress this fall, any decision will be left till next year while also including the next President of the United States.
Though Republicans do not feel the Democrats’ plan goes far enough to expand new energy sources, past attitudes of “no new leases”, has swayed with restrictions requiring current leases be explored further, and the added tax incentives for renewable energy energy sources. Safer drilling practices, higher oil prices, and increased pressure on providing an energy independent America, may soon make new offshore drilling a reality along thousands of acres of U.S. coastline.