An important event occurred this week, though it went largely unnoticed because of the economic turmoil on Wall Street. On September 30 Congress allowed the 27-year-old ban on offshore oil drilling to expire. This is very good news for Americans and for our energy independence. Conversely, it should be bad news for the world's tyrants who profit enormously from our dependence upon their vast oil resources. One can hope that the expiration of this ban permanently ends the unnecessary and impractical Congressional regulation of our natural resources under the disingenuous guise of environmental protection.
I should note here that we will not see an immediate benefit from the expiration of the ban. It will take many years to develop our oil and natural gas reserves off the continental U.S. According to FORBES, "the Interior Department, which oversees the leasing of areas for oil and gas development, is not expected to begin selling leases in areas where drilling is currently restricted until 2010." Oil companies then will have to analyze current data to determine in which places they may be interested in investing. FORBES noted that government energy officials say it would take five to ten years before any oil supplies produced from opening restricted offshore areas would be available in the market.
It is estimated that Federal lands off the U.S. coasts could produce 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, though some believe that these are conservative estimates because new technologies will allow us to find and extract much more. Once these resources reach American consumers, the price of oil and energy likely will drop significantly, as will our dependence on foreign tyrants who spew hatred against us.
Of course, it is plausible that the next Congress will try to re-impose the ban, which is one reason oil companies may wait until next year to begin planning the development of these reserves. It is also possible that environmental groups will sue in an attempt to use the courts to stop drilling for oil or natural gas. Should either of these happen, however, I foresee a tremendous popular backlash against Congress or the courts, as Americans are tired of paying high prices for oil and energy when we have so many undeveloped resources of our own.
The good news is that the ban on offshore oil drilling has expired. But the American people must remain vigilant to ensure that Congress does not try to enact a similar ban in the future.