Republicans still support offshore drilling
Two years ago, feisty Republicans commandeered the darkened House chamber during the summer recess to loudly demand that oil companies be allowed to “drill here and drill now.”The Republican approach is still the right one and it is one backed by the voters. It would be a huge mistake to give in to the anti energy left right now, just because of the accident in the Gulf. Democrats are still on the wrong side of the voters, even if a few voters have wavered because of the spill. Those that do waver will be back in the drill column if the price of gas goes back to $4 a gallon which it quickly will if offshore production is halted.
Now, with an ominous oil slick threatening the Gulf Coast from a deep-well blowout, Republican cries for more offshore oil production have grown quieter. But they have not ceased.
“The American people want to see our country develop our domestic resources in an environmentally responsible way, and they know we can,” Representative Mike Pence, the No. 3 House Republican and one of the ringleaders of the 2008 uprising on the House floor, said Thursday.
It was a notable Republican triumph. With gas prices hitting $4 per gallon, House Republicans were able to pressure the Democratic majority in Congress to relent on a coastal drilling ban that had been routinely enacted every year since the early 1980s. But the BP spill has made the politics of oil much more slippery for Republicans, and they are treading carefully.
Republicans do not want to abandon the pro-drilling image they cultivated so successfully and probably could not be rid of it even if they wanted to since it is now so embedded in their ideological fabric. But they also do not want to risk an election-year backlash in the aftermath of the gulf crisis, particularly if the damage becomes as extensive as some experts fear it could. And they are heartened by polls showing that while public support for drilling has dropped since the accident, most Americans still support offshore oil production.
At the same time, Republicans would not mind hitting the Obama administration, which itself was pursuing expanded drilling, for what Mr. Pence characterized as a slow response to the spill — a complaint the White House says is groundless and politically motivated. But even as they zero in on the administration’s handling of the disaster, Republicans risk emphasizing the dangers of offshore drilling and alarming the public even more about the ramifications of coastal exploration.
For now, Republicans have adopted a multifaceted approach as they try to finesse the issue. First, call for an inquiry to determine what caused the accident, so as to be able to reassure the public that a recurrence can be prevented. Then, raise the possibility that the White House could have done more, a position that suggests that some of the damage could be the result of bureaucratic inertia rather than a hazardous energy operation.
And, finally, point out that Republicans have called for a broad energy program of which offshore drilling is only one element and that federal revenues generated by drilling would be put toward developing alternative fuel sources.
People need to be reminded that this well is just one of hundreds in the Gulf and those others are operating successfully and providing a good portion of the oil produced by the the US. Democrats will be making a mistake if they try to stop offshore oil and gas production. While the article implies this is a tricky issue for Republicans, the opposite is the case.