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June 21, 2008 / Mridul

American Tug-of-war Over Offshore Oil Drilling

Republican Presidential candidate and President George W Bush have urged the US Congress to lift the ban offshore oil drilling. They claim that the step would help ease the boiling oil prices and would serve as a the first step towards end of foreign oil dependence. Although a majority of the US public wants offshore oilfields to be opened for the oil companies the Democrats oppose such a step while Republicans overwhelmingly support it.

The Democrats have shown their full opposition against the offshore oil drilling. Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama blasted McCain’s proposal of lifting the ban by saying that the Arizona Senator knows that there is no ‘quick-fix’ solution to the current oil crisis.

“Offshore drilling would not lower gas prices today, it would not lower prices tomorrow, it would not lower gas prices this year, it would not lower gas prices five years from now,” said Obama. “In fact President Bush’s own energy department says we would not see a drop of (offshore) oil … until 2017.”

Obama said he understands that drivers are suffering because of $4-a-gallon gasoline and that he would consider additional offshore drilling if “there was any evidence” it would reduce prices.

“But it won’t,” he said. “And John McCain knows that.”

Surprisingly (or not) Obama has found a Republican supporter – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie told reporters that it was essential not to disrupt the environment further even as the nation tries to battle the rising fuel prices. He pointed out the need for promotion of new cleaner fuel technologies.

We are in this situation because of our dependence on traditional petroleum-based oil. The direction our nation needs to go in, and where California is already headed, is toward greater innovation in new technologies and new fuel choices for consumers. That is the way we will ultimately reduce fuel costs and also protect our environment.

Schwarzenegger also reminded reporters about the possible catastrophic consequences on the environment if the ban is lifted. The Governor found support across party lines.

“Californians are all too familiar with the consequences of offshore drilling,” one of California’s two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein, said in a statement issued Tuesday, citing the 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, which damaged miles of coastline. Karen Bass, the newly appointed speaker of the State Assembly, agreed. “The idea of increasing offshore drilling off the coast of California I think is absurd, and I can’t even imagine we would entertain that,” Bass said.

It is interesting to see American public, which opposes Bush’s policies on virtually every single matter, putting weight behind his latest political move. No doubt this move is solely targeted towards voters who are reeling under the enormous burden of oil prices coupled.

Since economy has now become one of the biggest issue in the coming elections President Bush, true to his nature, thought of doing what was ‘right for the nation’ while ignoring the environmental fallouts of such a step. So will environment fall victim to the political tug-of-war once again? Wait & watch.


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