Miller: Drilling In The Artic A Solution To Save At the Pump

June 29, 2008

Submitted column by Congressman Jeff Miller for NorthEscambia.com

Ten years ago, House Republicans recognized the importance of increasing domestic energy production. Remembering the gas crises of the late 1970’s, I, along with my colleagues, want to end America’s reliance on foreign oil and eliminate the possibility of a future gas shortage. I believe it is not only an issue of economics, but one of national security. In the 1990’s, our solution was to open up oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) which would greatly expand our domestic oil reserves. However, attempts at exploration were squandered when then-President Bill Clinton vetoed the legislation.

Not much has changed over the last decade. The Democrats are still blocking Republican energy legislation only now they are putting their own spin on things. From a controversial report with unproven conclusions, the Majority is claiming that oil companies are “stockpiling” leases on federal lands with the intention of driving up oil prices. They are also claiming that although the Bush Administration has opened up the number of leases for exploratory drilling, production has not followed.

These one-sided accusations have resonated in the Democrats “use it or loose it” policy. Misnamed legislation such as H.R. 6251, The Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act of 2008, would force oil and gas companies to produce oil from the land they lease. Companies that fail to produce would be barred from obtaining more leases. The Majority’s central claim is that instead of opening up new areas for drilling we should drill on the land that is already leased for oil and gas exploration. While this may sound good in theory, it is impractical, inefficient, and does nothing to provide a fast, long-term approach to the energy crisis.

Almost everyone knows that land leased for oil and gas exploration doesn’t necessarily guarantee oil and gas reservoirs; it is merely being explored for these resources. The Democrats keep pushing the misconception that every acre of leased land has oil. In fact, companies don’t know how much oil is under the lands they lease. They simply buy up large portions of land in the hope that a fraction of the land will have oil and gas reserves. In reality, much of that land lacks oil or gas in commercially viable quantities and therefore cannot be used for oil and gas production. Most importantly, exploratory drilling costs millions of dollars and is rarely cost effective.

Instead of doing blind explorations of leased land and risking the loss of millions of dollars, we should expand drilling in areas that we know have oil and gas reserves, specifically the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Drilling in these areas would be both cheaper and faster since we don’t have to waste money looking for the oil and we know where to look. However, the Democrats repeatedly vote against this type of legislation.

It’s hard to make changes with a majority that won’t listen. If the Republicans had been allowed to drill in the ANWR years ago, we probably wouldn’t be paying over $4 at the pump. This is all the more reason to begin exploring now. If we don’t, history will repeat itself.

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