Virginia has become the latest victim of the Obama administration’s war against the domestic drilling industry. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday that waters off Virginia and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico will remain closed to drilling through 2017 despite the commonwealth’s strong desire for oil and gas production. The moratorium will cost the Old Dominion jobs and tax revenue while further undermining America’s domestic energy industry.
“We are the only country in the world that has major, known, offshore energy resources that we are not exploiting,” explains Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A survey of oil executives reported Tuesday that the moratoria and regulatory slowdowns of western Gulf drilling - after the BP rig blowout - already was expected to hurt for many years to come. Before the ban, government was granting nearly 15 new Gulf permits per month; since the April explosion, it has issued only 16 total, even in shallow water. The result, according to the Energy Information Administration, will be a loss of 170,000 barrels per day in 2011 - which, in turn, will cause a greater dependence on foreign oil.
New drilling off Virginia might have helped make up that gap, at least in the long-term. The federal Minerals Management Service estimated that as much as 750 million barrels of oil and 6.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie off Virginia’s coast. Mr. Obama and Mr. Salazar, doing the bidding of environmental radicals, are keeping those mineral riches off limits.
In October, the Southeast Energy Alliance estimated the commonwealth would gain 1,900 jobs and a $365 million annual boost to its economy from drilling that’s now denied. If Virginia were allowed the same percentage of proceeds as Gulf states, state government could garner up to $250 million annually. Those jobs and earnings are now off the table for at least seven years. No wonder Gov. Robert F. McDonnell sounded furious at the news. “This is an irresponsible and short-sighted decision,” he said. “This decision calls into serious question the priorities and focus of the Obama administration.”
Dan Kish, policy chief for the industry-backed Institute for Energy Research and former chief of staff for the House Natural Resources Committee, uses even harsher words. “These guys have declared war on conventional fuels … and on the American public, frankly,” he told The Washington Times. The Obama administration has forsworn the idea of “drill, baby, drill” for that of “kill, baby, kill” - kill production, kill revenue, kill jobs and kill consumer hopes for affordable fuel and a sane energy policy.