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WASHINGTON -- As the economy continues to falter, energy issues remain a highly contested issue this election season, which prompted the House to approve a measure easing a longstanding ban on offshore oil drilling earlier this week.
While Democrats and Republicans have publicly butt heads over the volatile issue, the measure includes a comprise stating an emphasis will also be placed on alternative fuel sources.
The legislation, which needs to pass through both houses of Congress before becoming a law, would allow drilling as close as 50 miles from the coastline if adjacent states agree and 100 miles out no matter a state’s position, reported The New York Times.
"It represents a critical turning point," said Representative Dan Boren, a democrat from Oklahoma, who lauded the bill for provisions to encourage greater use of natural gas. "Today is the day we begin to open our domestic opportunities."
Under the Democratic-led legislation, and adopted by a vote of 236-189, The New York Times reported oil companies would lose some tax benefits, utilities would be required to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and a ban would be lifted concerning developing fuel from Rocky Mountain shale.
"We are opening up to 400 million acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling and expanding the availability of oil by at least 2 billion barrels," Representative Nick J. Rahall II, a West Virginia democrat who leads the Natural Resources Committee, told the paper. "And we have done so in a balanced, reasonable and responsible manner."
Republicans, however, are calling the bill more smoke and mirrors than progressive legislation. They cited the failure to include incentives for coal and nuclear power, and not limiting environmental suits against drilling proposals.
"We are engaged in exactly what the American people are sick of, and that is political games here in Washington that are intended to be political games and have no outcome," Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio told the paper.