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Bailout Shields Reid's Shale Ban

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Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to ban shale oil exploration while most members of Congress are focusing on the $700 billion financial bailout.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) posted the text of Reid’s proposed ban on shale on his Senate blog Thursday afternoon. "It would be an insult to all Americans if Senate Democrats worked to bailout Wall Street while damaging our future prosperity by banning development of vast energy reserves in oil shale,” a DeMint staffer wrote.

Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard’s (R.) staff also sounded the alarm once they got wind of Reid’s plans. Allard’s state would be directly affected by the shale ban, as most of the nation’s shale depositories are in the Western states.

Approximately 800 billion to 2 trillion barrels of oil are estimated to be located there.

The congressional ban on offshore drilling and shale exploration is set to expire on September 30. Conservative proponents of domestic energy exploration have declared October 1 “Energy Freedom Day” to celebrate the ban’s termination.

The fight over offshore drilling and shale has been explosive over the last few months. House Republicans staged protests in their chamber throughout the August recess calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) to hold stand-alone votes on offshore drilling.

Republicans celebrated last week when Democrats signaled they would let the bans naturally expire over recess. The Democrats’ concession came amid concerns their party would be faulted for high gas prices in the November election.

If Reid’s amendment is successfully added to a continuing resolution to keep government functioning while Congress recesses for the November elections, however, the ban would effectively be kept in place.

Like DeMint's office, House Minority Leader John Boenher (R.-Ohio) thought Reid's amendment is "insulting."

“Sen. Reid’s move to reinstate the ban on oil shale energy production is an insult to the American people and yet another example of Democrats acting to make energy more expensive for working families and small businesses," the Republican leader said in a statement. "At a time when our economy is struggling, it’s outrageous that Sen. Reid would attempt to block efforts to open up responsible oil shale development, which would create good-paying jobs and help lower energy costs."

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