Vote against OCS inventory subverts US energy policy

Bob Tippee

Can there be any indication clearer than voluntary ignorance that Congress is misguided on energy policy?

The House on Oct. 15 voted 229-182 to instruct energy-bill conferees to exclude from consideration an inventory of oil and natural gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OGJ Online, Oct. 16, 2003).

Because the inventory would have covered areas subject to leasing moratoriums, drilling opponents saw it as a move toward the oil and gas activity they so dread.

So House members opted for ignorance.

If Americans knew what they were forgoing by prohibiting leasing of so much federal acreage, after all, they might take a closer look than they have so far at the issue.

They might learn that drilling and production aren't as menacing as environmentalists' propaganda portrays them to be.

They might consider forecasts of problems in the natural gas market certain to develop if new supplies don't come on stream soon.

They might take into account the jobs, incomes, and government revenues potentially available from economically idle areas of US marine territory.

And they might reasonably conclude that the transitory sight of offshore drilling and production equipment represents a small price to pay for all that economic goodness.

For 229 members of the House, however, such a chain of events apparently was too distasteful to imagine.

So they voted for ignorance.

Their resort to the tactics of despotism betrays failing confidence in the case for moratoriums. If that case were strong, drilling opponents would welcome the inventory and argue insufficiency of the promise relative to the environmental threat.

But the case is weak because the threat is minor, so moratorium supporters want no illumination of it at all.

The no-inventory vote, which just seals a lock nobody has proposed to remove on leasing, is said to have been a divisive gambit by opponents of comprehensive energy legislation.

Whatever the motivation, the House has recorded its opposition to even considering energy potential of the OCS.

An energy policy that doesn't meaningfully address supply is no energy policy. An energy policy that explicitly precludes development of natural resources can't meaningfully address supply.

(Author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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