Members of Louisianas congressional delegation have long called for lifting the ban on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexicos Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), but now that a sitting president, GOP presidential candidate and a top federal agency have joined the push, the issue is gaining new momentum.
The United States is the only country that has closed more than 80 percent of its outer continental shelf to drilling. Outdated estimates, last assessed in the late 1980s, assume there are as much as 18 billion barrels of untapped oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off U.S. coastlines. President George W. Bush has requested that Congress open up OCS area in the Gulf of Mexico to drilling, fresh on the heels of his decision to remove an executive prohibition issued through his own office on similar exploration. Generations of Louisiana lawmakers have filed legislation to lift the statutory ban, but have been unable to make any headway. The GOPs presumptive presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has advocated increased OCS energy production. McCain says he does not support drilling in Alaskas Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrat Partys assumed nominee, has said little about the expansion of OCS drilling. Obamas campaign planks focus instead on reducing oil consumption, retooling fuel-economy standards and creating new tax breaks. Jeremy Alford