Congress must act on OCS policy

MSNBC.com reports that the Obama administration today "overturned another Bush-era energy policy, setting aside a draft plan to allow drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts." The piece goes on to quote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: "To establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, we need to set aside" the plan "and create our own timeline." That's all well and good, but the real decision-maker here needs to be Congress. The current 5 year plan goes through 2012, so the revised 2010-2015 proposed plan was designed to respond to the 2008 lapse of the moratoria and begin the leasing process in areas not considered in the 2007-2012 plan. No serious person expected the new administration to fully accept the future plans of an outgoing President/Interior Department. The real action first needs to occur on Capitol Hill. Congress must not reinstate the moratoria on exploration and production for natural gas and oil -- that “do nothing” offshore energy policy of recent decades has contributed mightily to our current energy insecurity. Instead, with full, open and public debate, Congress need to set a clear regulatory framework on access, revenue sharing, royalties, and boundaries. Once that happens, DOI/MMS should move expeditiously to develop a revised draft program for 2010-2015 that addresses our conventional energy needs with strong environmental stewardship. The alternative? With the majority of global oil and gas reserves held by national oil companies, new oil will come from four main sources: Brazil, the Middle East, West Africa, and the Canadian Oil Sands. Should we subsidize others and look the other way as they inflict environmental and climate damage on their own nations and the planet as a whole? Or should we produce natural gas and oil domestically, with all the environmental protections and advanced technology that the U.S. can bring to bear? The answer seems clear.