This week the Obama Administration announced a revised approach to the flawed policy off shore drilling pushed through in the waning days of the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, the plan would still open up large swaths of water off the East Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Alaska to new oil and gas drilling.
While I understand the proposal is just one component of a larger strategy to diversify America’s energy resources and reduce our reliance on foreign oil, it is neither necessary nor in Virginia or the country’s long term best interests.
Today, 80 percent of America’s recoverable natural gas has yet to be tapped – all in areas where drilling is currently allowed. Enabling more drilling when these sources have yet to be exhausted will only feed our economic dependence on fossil fuels when we should be moving more aggressively to cleaner, sustainable sources of energy. New drilling also risks harm to our environment and injury to our coastal communities that rely on fishing and tourism to sustain their livelihoods.
I am encouraged that in Virginia’s case, the military and its critical presence in Hampton Roads will be granted a seat at the table and veto power to reject plans that would compromise mission critical navigation and training areas in the Virginia Capes. The previous administration dismissed these concerns and some Virginia officials continue to refuse to acknowledge them.
Before people start counting any future revenues from drilling, consider this reality: even under the most optimistic scenario, no well will be sunk for at least another eight years; any royalties from these operations by law must go to the federal government, not the Commonwealth. Unlike Virginia, states that today receive royalties negotiated those rates before they agreed to allow drilling, not after.
The reality is that oil and gas development off Virginia’s coast will be a long and drawn out process. Despite Governor McDonnell assertions, no revenue from drilling will be used to ease Virginia’s transportation woes any time soon. Even if Congress were to agree to forfeit future federal revenue from off-shore drilling tomorrow, it will take at least a decade for the state to realize the benefits.
America’s dependence on fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal threatens our economy, national security, and the health of our environment in the near and long term. Burning oil, coal, and gas to power our homes, businesses and vehicles subjects the lifeblood of our economy to wild fluctuations in the energy market price and comprises more than three quarters of global warming pollution.
The President is right when he says that America needs to change the way it thinks about energy. Should we stay on the present course, these challenges will only increase at a time when our economy is in a fragile state of recovery. But boring deep beneath Virginia’s coast line for the solution simply short changes Obama’s vision and undermines our efforts to build a more sustainable, independent energy future.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.