Congress Approves Off Shore Drilling Bill

It’s about time Congress got its butt in gear and passed an energy bill like this. President Bush is expected to sign it.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hours before adjourning for the year, the U.S. Congress on Saturday sent President George W. Bush legislation that would open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling and redistribute billions of dollars in royalties to four Gulf states.

The drilling measure was wrapped into a broad tax and trade package that the U.S. Senate approved by a 79-9 vote, hours after the House of Representatives approved it.

Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Louisiana Republican and one of the drilling measure’s main supporters, said Bush will sign the bill into law.

The offshore legislation ends a 25-year ban on drilling in deep waters about 125 miles south of Florida’s Panhandle, but extends a moratorium on drilling in other Florida waters until 2022.

The area known as “Lease Sale 181” holds an estimated 1.26 billion barrels of crude oil and 5.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In a statement, the White House said the bill “will help to reduce our dependence on imported sources of energy by increasing access to domestic sources of oil and gas.”

But it will be years before the tracts are leased to energy companies and the new supplies actually hit the market.

That has always been one of the many excuses those opposed to domestic drilling have used to fight it, and I’ve never gotten the logic of it. So what if it takes, let’s say, five years before the oil hits the market. The year 2011 is going to arrive anyway, so we might as well have more domestic oil when it does. And while we’re at it, let’s build some new oil refineries in that same five year time period, too.

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