U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer today said that passage of a bill that would allow for new offshore oil drilling in federal waters off the coast of California is dangerous and will not result in lower gas prices.
Boxer noted that not only would offshore drilling threaten California’s multi-billion dollar coastal economy, but that experts have concluded that offshore drilling would have an “insignificant” effect on gas prices. Additionally, oil companies already hold tens of millions of acres that they have not yet developed.
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Boxer said, “This Republican bill is a direct assault on California’s $23 billion coastal economy and nearly 390,000 jobs in tourism, fishing and recreation that would do nothing to lower gas prices for consumers. A year after the devastating BP oil spill sparked an economic and environmental disaster on the Gulf Coast, big oil companies and their allies are now seeking to put our coast at risk – even though they already have 50 million acres of oil and gas leases that they have yet to drill and even though this is not the way to lower gas prices.”
Senator Boxer said there are steps that should be taken to address high gas prices, such as:
- Release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve;
- Crack down on fraud and speculation;
- Force oil companies to use the active leases they already have or put them back on the market;
- End Big Oil subsidies and invest in clean energy;
- Continue raising fuel economy standards; and
- Pursue policies to limit exports of domestic oil.
The bill voted on in the House today, the Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act, introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), would require the administration to open new areas to offshore oil drilling despite the Interior Department’s decision in March 2010 not to allow drilling off the West Coast through 2017, which cited “low available resource potential,” “low interest from the oil and gas industry” and “consistent opposition from the public, the State and Members of Congress.”
The White House has indicated that it opposes the bill, noting that the measure “would require the Department of the Interior (DOI) to open new areas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to leasing without any discretion to determine which areas are actually appropriate and safe for exploration and development. The bill would have the effect of mandating OCS lease sales along the entire East Coast, offshore California, and elsewhere, without providing states and local citizens the opportunity to share views about where exploration should happen.”
The House vote came on the same day executives from the five biggest oil companies testified that they should continue receiving billions a year in taxpayer subsidies. Senate Democrats have been pushing to end these tax breaks at a time when the big five oil companies have reported a combined $36 billion in first quarter profits.