- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

When the House of Representatives votes tomorrow on the bipartisan Domestic Ocean Energy Resources (DOER) Act, it will be considering one of the nation’s most meaningful energy-policy reforms in history.

Decades of “just say ‘no’” energy policy has turned America into a country too dependent on foreign, and often unstable, sources of energy. We send $300 billion a year overseas for energy we can produce at home, a figure that represents one-third of the current trade deficit. We have lost millions of manufacturing jobs over the past two decades because of high energy prices. We should be investing that $300 billion in America to create our own good jobs and provide our own energy security.

The DOER Act does just that. America is the only developed nation that forbids safe energy production on its Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), a fact that puts us at an economic and strategic disadvantage with other countries in a highly competitive global economy.

It just doesn’t make any sense.

The DOER Act represents a balanced, commonsense compromise to deliver desperately needed energy supplies to the American people, which in turn will lower prices for consumer wallets and create hundreds of thousands of family-wage jobs. It will spur production of an untapped energy resource and correct federal government policies that have led to our dangerous dependence on foreign energy. And, just as importantly, it champions states’ rights by protecting those not interested in producing energy off their shores.

Currently, two federal moratoria prevent energy production beyond state waters or three miles from the coastline, neither of which have the force of permanent law. Many have called for the complete repeal of the moratoria for full access to available resources, of which there are plenty. According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, America’s OCS contains 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (America consumes 23 trillion cubic feet per year) and 86 billion barrels of oil (America imports 4.5 billion barrels per year).

But that would leave coastal states without any power over their coastlines beyond three miles, a possibility unacceptable to many states.

Under the DOER Act, states like California and Florida would have the authority to ban energy production up to 100 miles off their shores. States that choose to allow production, however, would benefit from increased revenue from energy royalties — some of which would also be routed to three separate funds for environmental protection and enhancement, renewable energy development, job training and research. Meanwhile, domestic energy production would be allowed in the deep waters beyond 100 miles.

This innovative and bipartisan compromise — the result of work between Reps. Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii Democrat; Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Republican; Charlie Melancon, Louisiana Democrat and John Peterson, Pennsylvania Republican — passed the House Resources Committee with 29-9 support. Labor unions, which appreciate how many jobs the bill would create, fully support it.

Nonetheless, special-interest groups will go to great lengths to block its passage, conjuring images of massive oil spills to scare up opposition. This is pure bunk. Today’s advanced ocean energy exploration technologies were given the ultimate test last summer when hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared through nearly 3,000 offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the typical fearmongering of so-called environmental groups, no major spills were reported during one of America’s worst natural disasters. In fact, according to a National Academies report, 63 percent of the petroleum found in North American waters comes from natural seeps through the ocean floor.

The bottom line is that our domestic energy policy has long stimulated jobs and economies overseas, but not at home. Enough is enough. It’s time to put Americans to work for American energy.

Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican, is Chairman of the House Resources Committee.

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