Monday, October 5, 2009

Marking ‘Energy Freedom Day’

It was hardly surprising when a major oil and gas association’s chief executive, several US House Republicans, and other groups commented on the one-year anniversary of the expiration of congressional offshore leasing moratoriums on Oct. 1. The anniversary gave them an ideal opportunity to chide the Obama administration for not having done much since.

“Earlier this year, our nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first oil well drilled in the United States and the countless benefits and success stories that affordable and reliable energy have helped create. Today we mark another momentous day in America’s energy history,” said Independent Petroleum Association of America President Barry Russell.

“However, one year later our American resources are as far out of reach as they were before this ban expired. Because the Interior Department continues to slow-walk its five-year offshore energy plan, a de facto ban remains in tact,” he continued.

A day earlier, the Institute for Energy Research coined a name for the anniversary: Energy Freedom Day. “Last year, the American people rose up and demanded Congress take action to address our long-term energy and security needs,” IER President Thomas J. Pyle said. “Because of the unified call for access to more American energy, Congress eventually removed the decades-old offshore energy ban. Unfortunately, one year later, that door has been effectively closed by the Department of the Interior.”

US Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, agreed. “Energy Freedom Day is itself an oxymoron since we are no more free of our reliance on foreign energy today than we were one year ago. In fact, over the past year, roughly 60% of all consumed energy resources were imported from foreign countries. This is an alarming statistic given the resources located right here in the US,” he said on Oct. 1.

Millions of Americans depend on US Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas production for their livelihoods and every American depends on it for transportation, according to Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). “In my state, 320,000 Louisianans work in the energy industry, generating around $12 billion a year in household income,” he said in an Oct. 1 posting on his blog. “These are well-paying jobs for welders, pipe fitters, barge workers, and the thousands of people who work in industries that support the energy sector.”

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) observed Energy Freedom Day by introducing legislation which seemed to not be directly related to the occasion. His bill aimed at stopping excess litigation against energy projects on federal lands would impose a 60-day deadline on legal challenges, require that the loser pay in most cases, and prevent judicial “forum shopping” by requiring all cases to be filed in federal district court for the District of Columbia.

“In addition to congressional inaction, excess litigation is also impeding energy exploration,” he explained. “It’s crucial that we streamline the legal process for the significant number of legal challenges from environmental groups. The current process is in disarray and ultimately prevents American energy sources from reaching the American people.”

Conventional wisdom suggests that Broun’s bill doesn’t stand a chance. It also was the conventional wisdom that then-Rep. John E. Peterson (R-Pa.) was wasting his time more than three years ago when he first spoke out about presidential and congressional offshore oil and gas leasing bans in a House floor speech, and look what happened there.


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