Bush Reverses Father's Order on OCS

Amanda Carpenter

7/14/2008 2:11:29 PM - Amanda Carpenter

Rising energy prices have prompted President George to rescind an executive order enacted by his father and extended by President Bill Clinton to ban offshore drilling.

“The time for action is now,” President George W. Bush said in a Rose Garden speech Monday afternoon.

A memorandum signed by the President rescinds former President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 executive order drafted in response to pressure from the environmental lobby after a 3 million gallon oil spill off the coast of California in 1969. The current President Bush argued “advances in technology have made it possible to have the oil production out of sight, protect habitats and protect against oil spills.”

Before energy producers are permitted to explore offshore, however, Congress must lift their own legislative ban against drilling off the shores of California, Florida and Virginia that has been in place since 1981. Congress will have an opportunity to do so when it returns from August recess. The ban must be renewed each year and is scheduled to expire on September 30, unless Congress takes action to keep it in place.

Bush called on Democrat-controlled Congress to follow suit. “The ball is squarely in Congress’s court,” he said. “Democratic leaders can show they have finally seen the frustration of the American people by demanding the action I have taken today.”

Regardless of congressional jockeying, the President’s announcement may hurt Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who opposes offshore drilling, and boost GOP presidential candidate John McCain, who supports it.

“I hope that, as he has on several other issues, that Sen. Obama will change his position and now support offshore oil drilling,” McCain told reporters at a press availability in Phoenix, Arizona on Monday.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he does not believe it would have any impact on current energy prices.

McCain shot down that idea. If we can show that we have significant oil reserves off our coasts, that will clearly affect the futures market and affect the price of oil,” he said.

Like many other Democrats, Obama would rather open the Strategic Energy Reserve and divert more federal dollars to alternative energy than allow offshore drilling.