The Corner

The Gulf Is Still Waiting for More Drilling Permits

On the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the administration’s de facto moratorium, or “permitorium,” on offshore drilling has resulted in higher prices for gas and heating fuel in addition to costing thousands of Americans jobs and making the country more dependent on foreign oil. Indeed, it appears that the administration has found in the Gulf disaster the justification for its political bias against domestic oil and gas production.

Since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama has led an aggressive quest to end domestic offshore energy development altogether. The economic side effects of this short-sighted decision are immediately obvious.

Offshore drilling and the Gulf Coast economy are mutually dependent. One third of Gulf Coast jobs are related to the energy industry, and the Gulf produces approximately 30 percent of our nation’s domestic oil.

With the permitorium in place, Gulf Coast energy production is expected to fall by nearly 200,000 barrels per day in 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration. This entails the loss of tens of thousands of jobs nationwide, as well as a greater dependence on foreign oil.

Since the moratorium’s official end in October, only ten deepwater drilling permits have been approved, leaving dozens of companies waiting on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar before they can create jobs and revitalize America’s energy industry. The effects of these delays mean that smaller energy companies are forced to wait, a financial and regulatory burden that many will not survive.

Of course, President Obama’s political bias against domestic drilling does not affect our foreign competitors. While gas prices continue to rise, so does the exploration of deepwater wells around the world. Job-creating companies will not wait for the administration to approve drilling permits when other countries offer a faster and easier process.

To date, twelve rigs have already left the Gulf for energy-friendlier countries such as Brazil and Egypt. This results in a loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in wages. When just one rig can employ hundreds of local workers and serve as a crucial job opportunity for Gulf Coast residents, it is difficult to understand why the administration wants to drive rigs out of the hard-hit Gulf region.

Last August, Obama promised to “stand with [those affected by the oil spill] . . . until [they] had fully recovered from the damage that’s been done.” Unfortunately, his words contradict his actions. Prolonging the approval process of deepwater-drilling permits continues to exacerbate the suffering of thousands of industry workers and their families.

Drilling in the Gulf has all but stopped. Restaurants and manufacturing businesses have closed. In the height of fishing season last year, fishermen, oystermen, and shrimpers were banned from their hunting grounds, and thousands of families in the Gulf still don’t know when to expect their next paycheck. Even worse, the prolonged permitorium defies our national character.

Administration-approved bureaucratic delays contradict our nation’s history in encouraging those who have made major advances in exploring the unknown, whether under the Earth’s surface or beyond its atmosphere.

While we will continue to honor the memory of the eleven men who died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the American people have never allowed tragedies to destroy their innovative spirit or shutter their exploration. Neither the Challenger nor the Columbia space-shuttle disasters, for instance, ended our exploration of space. Rather, Americans learned from these tragedies and continued with renewed commitment to achieve our national goals.

House Republicans understand the need for developing American-made energy. We have a trove of natural resources at our fingertips, and America should use this opportunity to its advantage. As we develop alternate energy sources, offshore energy production can trigger an economic growth spurt and develop our nation’s independence from foreign oil.

Learning from our mistakes, we must invest in America’s future and allow job-creating industries to develop our domestic resources safely and strategically.

— Rep. Darrell Issa is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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