Administration is on wrong side of voters on drilling moratorium


Our interior secretary plans to reinstate the offshore drilling moratorium struck down by a federal judge. But if deep-water drilling is so unsafe, why are we helping Brazil drill nearly three times as deep?

Maybe Secretary Ken Salazar can explain why Britain and others can safely drill in the North Sea and no other nation has suspended its offshore drilling. Yet there he was Tuesday saying he'll reissue a reworded moratorium that will make it clear to dunces like U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman why offshore drilling is unsafe.

As with health care reform and other issues, the administration's position is that we didn't make it clear enough, so we will speak slower and use smaller words. But double talk is double talk no matter how you rearrange the words.

"The decision to impose a moratorium on deep-water drilling was and is the right decision," Salazar said, even after he was caught rewording a report so a team of experts he assembled would look like they supported the moratorium, when in fact, they adamantly opposed it and thought it would do more harm than the Deepwater Horizon spill itself.

"If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?" Feldman asked in his ruling. "Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines?

"That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing." Not for an administration and its environmentalist supporters whose collective goal is not to drill safely, but to drill not at all, at least not here.

Last August, the U.S. Export-Import Bank issued a "preliminary commitment" letter to Brazil's state-run Petrobras in the amount of $2 billion, with the promise of more to follow. Why are we lending billions to a foreign oil company that made $15 billion last year?

These taxpayer dollars finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil's Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro. Apparently there are no pristine beaches full of tourists there. Someday we may be importing that oil we're helping Brazil get at.

Has that letter been rescinded as part of the moratorium? Why are Brazil's offshore fields safe but ours aren't?

The irony is that most of the deep-water rigs idled by the moratorium may shortly be snapped up by a Petrobras apparently undeterred by images of tar balls on Rio's beaches. Petrobras plans to drill to a depth of 14,022 feet, a depth that makes our 500-foot limit laughable. Brazil is going big-game hunting, and we're stuck in the petting zoo.

A recent study by Science Applications International Corp. shows that failure to exploit our domestic and offshore resources translates into some $2.3 trillion in lost opportunity costs for the U.S. economy over the next two decades. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that exploiting these resources would generate nearly 160,000 well-paying jobs and $1.7 trillion in federal, state and local revenues, with $1.3 trillion from offshore drilling alone.


The moratorium will have no effect on proposed wells off the coast of Cuba that are closer to Florida than the wells that have currently had to shut down. Cobbling together ever more invalid assumptions will not make an extended moratorium more likely to pass muster. It is just a bad idea in reaction to the complaints of the anti energy left in the Democrat party. This is just another issue where the Democrats and this administration are on the wrong side of the voters.


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