We Cannot Drill Our Way to Lower Oil Prices: California Needs to Send a Clear Message to the Federal Government

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

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. You 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 State Legislature’s opposition to any further leasing of oil and gas reserves on the outer continental shelf.

AJR 51 strongly opposes lifting both the Presidential and Congressional Moratoriums on oil exploration on the outer continental shelf. New drilling will put our coastal environment at risk while providing negligible benefits. According to the Bush Administration’s own Energy Information Agency, we won’t see an impact on prices at the pump for 20 years.

Despite having more than doubled the amount of producing oil wells over the last 15 years, gas prices have nearly quadrupled. Since 1994 the amount of wells drilled in U.S. Territory has increased from over 3,000 wells to nearly 9,000 wells. Meanwhile the average price of gas at the pump has risen from just over $1.00 to over $4.00.

Petroleum development on the outer continental shelf of the West Coast will 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 more 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.

Assemblymember Pedro Nava represents the 35th Assembly District, including Oxnard, Ventura and Santa Barbara. He is the Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Services and Homeland Security and Chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee. In addition, he serves as the State Assembly representative on the California Ocean Protection Council. Prior to serving in the legislature, he served for 8 years on the California Coastal Commission.

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