Monday, May 26, 2008

Drilling in America

Mounting concerns about global energy supply are fueling a drive by the oil industry and some U.S. lawmakers to end longstanding bans on domestic drilling put in place to protect environmentally sensitive areas.

Increasing U.S. oil production would require overturning decades-old moratoriums that limit offshore drilling and accelerating leasing of federal lands, moves that would trigger a swift and vigorous political backlash. Still, as gasoline prices continue to climb and squeeze household budgets, the momentum appears to be gaining to open up new areas...

"These prices are making voters realize we need to produce [more] energy" domestically, said Rep. John Peterson, a Republican from Pennsylvania who is pushing legislation to open up new offshore areas for energy exploration. The U.S. imports two-thirds of its oil, though less than one-sixth of its natural gas, according to federal data. The rest is produced domestically.

A century and a half after oil production began, there is ample evidence that a lot of oil -- and natural gas -- remains to be found in the U.S. and its territorial waters. Some of those areas are wide open to oil companies, including most of the Gulf of Mexico where deep-water floating rigs now routinely drill wells hundreds of miles from shore. Even in the gulf, areas are off limits, including most of the waters off the Florida coast. The entire East and West Coasts are off limits for new drilling...

New drilling techniques also are driving production in places such as North Dakota's Bakken field, which the federal government estimated in 1995 held 150 million barrels. This year, an updated assessment put the figure at 3.65 billion barrels, said Brenda Pierce, coordinator of the U.S. Geological Survey's Energy Resources Program. "We have the potential to grow production," she said.

read the WSJ article

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