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Commentary: We Can’t Drill Our Way to Lower Prices

Why put valuable resources at risk for a miniscule benefit that wouldn’t materialize for 20 years?

President George W. Bush announced Monday that he is lifting the presidential moratorium on exploration and drilling on the outer continental shelf. He wants us to believe that offshore drilling is a way to reduce soaring gas prices and decrease America’s reliance on imported oil.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava

If the moratorium is lifted, oil development and drilling could start off of the Northern California coast, the Central Coast and near shore along the Southern California coasts at Santa Monica Bay, Palos Verdes Peninsula, La Jolla and throughout Orange County.

The president’s announcement is sheer political grandstanding and will require further action by the Congress. Unfortunately, it appears as though some members of Congress have decided to reinforce the president’s proposal.

I suggest that President Bush read the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences report prepared in 1991 at his father’s request while he was president. That report found that there was insufficient scientific data to permit leasing in sensitive ocean waters. We could not secure adequate protection for the marine environment and drill for oil. President George H.W. Bush became known as the “environmental president” because he initiated the first moratorium.

Because of President Bush’s actions, I have introduced Assembly Joint Resolution 51, which voices the California Legislature’s opposition to further leasing of oil and gas reserves on the outer continental shelf.

AJR 51 strongly opposes lifting the presidential and congressional moratoriums on oil exploration on the outer continental shelf. New drilling would put our coastal environment at risk while providing negligible benefits. According to the Bush administration’s own Energy Information Agency, we wouldn’t see an effect on prices at the pump for 20 years.

Despite having more than doubled the amount of producing oil wells in the past 15 years, gas prices have nearly quadrupled. Since 1994, the amount of wells drilled in U.S. territory has increased from more than 3,000 wells to nearly 9,000 wells. Meanwhile, the average price of gas at the pump has risen from a little more than $1 to more than $4.

Petroleum development on the outer continental shelf of the West Coast would put important segments of our state’s economy at risk. Recreation and tourism-related activities in California’s coastal counties represent more than $12.5 billion in revenues.

California’s fishing and aquaculture industries are estimated to contribute an additional $400 million to the state’s economy. Why should we put valuable natural resources at risk for a miniscule benefit that wouldn’t materialize for 20 years?

Efforts to the lift the moratorium on offshore oil drilling are a cynical ploy to take advantage of the political climate brought on by high energy prices. I strongly urge Congress to oppose the president and his misdirected efforts.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, represents the 35th District.

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