Abercrombie bill merits approval to start drilling
A version of a bill originated by Rep. Neil Abercrombie to expand offshore oil drilling is headed for the House floor.
HAMMERED by Republicans over the ban on new offshore oil leasing and drilling, U.S. House Democrats are gathering around a bipartisan, comprehensive energy plan proposed by Rep. Neil Abercrombie and largely endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Approval of the bill would be an important achievement for Abercrombie, who is known as more combative than cooperative.
When Abercrombie and Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., introduced the bill in late July, Pelosi had not wavered from her refusal to allow a House vote on new coastal exploration. More than 130 House members have signed on to the proposal. Abercrombie reported late last week that he had been involved in three days of talks with Pelosi in writing compromise legislation, which he said will include "major parts" of the original version.
The offshore drilling moratorium is due to expire Oct. 1; failure to address the issue would allow oil companies to drill as close as three miles from the coast. Pelosi said she favors pushing any drilling to at least 50 miles offshore.
A key part of the Abercrombie proposal would direct 40 percent of the $2.6 trillion in revenue over 10 years from offshore oil and gas leasing revenue and royalties to support technologies for alternative fuels and renewable energy. The government conservatively estimates that 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 cubic feet of natural gas can be recovered on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Abercrombie points out that a 1953 law forbids oil and gas extracted from the shelf to be sold in the international market. "What's produced in America stays in America," he says.
The oil industry opposes the bill because it would eliminate $17 billion in tax breaks over a decade. However, Democrats willing to end the moratorium want something in return, and the proposal includes new fuel requirements for utility companies and various home and office energy efficiency measures.
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