Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oil rigs (literally) on the horizon?

On Monday, President Bush lifted restrictions on offshore oil drilling, which could have major implications on North Carolina.

"At issue for North Carolina are 300 miles of some of the nation's most undeveloped coastline. Waters off the state's coast contain significant fishing and birding habitats, while the coastal tourism economy is among the state's most important.

"But North Carolinians are paying more than $4 a gallon for gasoline, and most tell pollsters they support offshore drilling," said the N&O.

"The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," Bush said. "Today, I've taken every step within my power to allow offshore exploration" of the Outer Continental Shelf.

Such exploration and drilling would have almost no effect on current gas prices, though. Experts point that it would take at least eight to 10 years to produce oil offshore once all the bans are lifted.

Bush's action is the latest salvo in an election year that has seen Democrats and Republicans diverge sharply in recent weeks on offshore drilling. Republicans -- including presidential candidate John McCain and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole -- have pushed to search for oil in the Outer Continental Shelf. Democrats such as presidential candidate Barack Obama and U.S. Senate challenger Kay Hagan oppose drilling offshore. ...

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a Farmville Republican, said states' governors and legislatures should make the call on offshore drilling. He has been hearing from constituents who are agitated over gas prices.

"At this point, I know that we've got a critical need in this country, and I believe it's going to get more expensive," Jones said.

Among the politicians who have changed their minds in recent weeks about drilling offshore are Dole, who faces re-election this year, and Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mel Martinez of Florida, all Republicans.

One person who has blatantly supported the potential of offshore oil drilling is Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, Republican candidate for governor. He told a Greenville audience earlier this month that this type of action could have major economic implications for Eastern North Carolina.

"The east has a higher unemployment rate and lower per capita income than the rest of the state, but it does not have to be that way," McCrory said. "With safe, environmentally sound drilling in the deep sea off our coast, we can create new high paying jobs, jobs that the people of our poor counties can fill."

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, McCrory's rival for the governor's seat, has said she is opposed to the idea, citing environmental concerns.

No comments: