Offshore Drilling: Bingaman and Udall Get it Wrong

While President Bush has certainly had his share of mis-steps on energy policy (his support for ethanol being one prominent example), but he was definitely on the right track yesterday when he lifted the ban on offshore drilling which was enacted by his father. Unfortunately, as Michael Coleman points out in today’s Journal, Sen. Bingaman and Senate candidate Udall decried the lifting of the ban and made it clear that they would not support expanded offshore drilling in the Senate.
Bingaman said he supports offshore oil and gas drilling, but objects to allowing individual states to initiate or reject drilling off their coastal waters. He went on to say, “We need a national energy policy; we don’t need every state legislature or governor making our policy.” This statement shows that Bingaman both doesn’t understand federalism and the fact that individuals operating in an economy ultimately make our “energy policy,” not politicians. Rather than forcing states that don’t want offshore drilling, allowing each state to accept or reject it seems eminently reasonable. Also, with rising prices, individual consumers are reacting in ways that are far more powerful than Bingaman’s impotent efforts to mandate and regulate.
Udall, for his part, pointed out that oil companies “can now drill on 68 million acres of federal land they have leased and not used.” He would “force them to drill on the land they already have access to in order to boost supply quickly.” Udall clearly does not understand the oil and gas industries or how federal leases work:
The fact is:

Many of them cannot be drilled because there is no oil in them. The government makes these oil companies purchase these leases before they are allowed to survey them. The company geologists then survey, find there’s nothing in there, and now the big oil companies are stuck with these leases that they can’t do anything with..and…who pays the cost for those non-productive leases? We the people do as a pass through expense. It’s just another scam by the government and something they don’t want everyone to know about.

Republicans have clearly been asleep at the switch as far as increasing America’s ability to access oil and gas resources is concerned. They may be waking up. Bingaman and Udall seem to be running for Chair of the “Head in the Sand” caucus.