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Democrats recently caved to the Republican Party’s demands for drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) — their seemingly favorite solution to high gas prices after they reached $4 earlier this summer. As a result, the offshore drilling moratorium expired at midnight on Sept. 30, even though it had been renewed every year since 1982. The moratorium banned drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but now some see drilling as the only answer to our energy problems.
This marks the first of many battles-to-come between the two political parties involving offshore drilling. And it’s not looking pretty.
The Interior Department claims there are 18 billion barrels of oil to be retrieved from the Outer Continental Shelf, mainly around California. The House already passed legislation last month to allow oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as long as it was at least 50 miles from the shore. But the Republicans wanted to drill closer, claiming that almost 90 percent of oil reserves would than be off-limits.
According to the Energy Information Administration, any coastal drilling — whether or not it’s 50 miles away — would take time and money, neither of which the government has. The oil rigs, alone, would take at least five years to set up, and it would take at least another 15 until any drilling would show significant changes in gas prices. Many states may not even allow coastal drilling because of the chances that it could destroy public beaches. All of these reasons give Democrats the opportunity to create a broader legislation that could stop oil companies from drilling before any rigs are ever even built.
Of course, a large part of what will happen depends on who our next president will be. John McCain’s energy plan depends heavily on offshore drilling, while Barack Obama’s plan sees it as a small part to a bigger solution. To make your own opinion about the two, read The Candidates Discuss Energy Issues or watch the presidential debates on Oct. 7 and Oct. 15, airing at 9 p.m. Eastern time on all major broadcast networks. Or post a comment below if you already have an opinion.