Monday, May 16, 2011

President, House GOP leaders coalesce on offshore oil

Plagued by angry voters concerned about high prices for gasoline, President Barack Obama and Republican congressmen have reached an uneasy accord on new drilling permits.

In his Saturday address, the President told listeners he has ordered key executives of his administration to accelerate approval of drilling permits offshore in the southern and central Atlantic coastal areas of the southeast, in the Alaska Wildlife National Refuge, and in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is a reversal of earlier Obama Administration policies that saw a moratorium on drilling permits following the Deepwater Horizon blowout, only to result in no net progress when the Department of Energy and the EPA refused to approve all applications across the board.

Loud protests from Republican representatives resulted in the formation of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT), which was announced last week.

The coalition of 28 Republican House members includes the chairmen of the Energy and Natural Resources Committees, the House Majority and Deputy Majority Whips.

“Rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico sit idle and thousands of people remain out of work while American families struggle under the pressure of record-high gasoline prices as peak driving season approaches. Yet, the Obama Administration continues to block and delay domestic energy production, driving energy prices even higher and adversely impacting our country's economic opportunity, energy security and national security,” said Republican Representative Bill Flores of the 17th District of Texas.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California said “ constituents overwhelmingly wanted to talk about the steadily increasing price of gas that is placing great strain on their families and small businesses...The restrictive policies of this Administration are bringing unnecessary pain at the pump and they are costing our nation jobs.”

At the same time, the House passed H.R. 1231, a bill that reversed the Offshore Moratorium Act with a bipartisan vote of 243 to 179.

The HEAT coalition predicted that the legislation will spur the creation of about 250,000 jobs short-term and 1.2 million jobs over the long term by freeing up taxpayer-owned petroleum resources for drilling under the new commitment voiced by the President on Saturday.

Even the Audobon Society, a perennial and traditional opponent of petroleum drilling in publicly-owned areas, failed to protest “as long as the drilling does not endanger any species or cause environmental damage,” according to a statement issued by a spokesman.

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