Today, the Senate rejected Republican intentions to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. coastal waters. The bill was defeated in a 42-57 vote. Among other things, the bill would have required the Interior Department to hold offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, Virginia, and Alaska. Also, the lease terms for suspended Gulf contracts from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster would have been extended by one year.
Democrats argued that the GOP’s initiative would not only do very little to ease the current price of gas, but it would fail to help the country’s long-term energy crisis. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said, “"We can't lose sight of the fact that our great country uses more than 25% of the oil (consumed in the world) on any given day, and we have less than 3% of the oil reserves.” This defeat signaled the continuation of a stalemate over energy policy in the United States.
On Tuesday, the Senate rejected the Democratic objective to remove $20 billion in tax subsidies to major oil companies over the next 10 years. These savings were intended to have been used to pay down the federal deficit.
During President Barack Obama’s weekly address on Saturday, he called for “safe and responsible” oil production. The administration reports that they are working to speed up the leasing process for the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve as well as give oil companies better financial incentives to use and extend existing leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the president wishes to accelerate the testing of areas off the East Coast for future drilling. At the same time, Obama announced the formation of an interagency working group to oversee Arctic drilling projects to ensure that they meet health, safety, and environmental standards. The president does, however, oppose controversial plans for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group, called the GOP bill a "misguided attempt to expand drilling and weaken safety and environmental oversight."