If we want to make further progress on increasing domestic oil supplies, we need look no further than some of the promising areas in the Gulf of Mexico that were put off limits by the Administration when it first came into office back in 2001. The Administration took a large tract of potential production, called the Lease Sale 181 Area, and cut it down dramatically from the proportions that had been agreed to by President Clinton and then-governor Lawton Chiles of Florida. With the stroke of a pen, over a billion barrels of oil resources and over 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas were taken off the table. That was a mistake that I and others decried at the time and tried to reverse.

This year, we have a bipartisan bill to restore much of that lost productive capacity. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Pete Domenici, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recently reported a bipartisan bill to put most of the original Lease Sale 181 Area back on the table in an accelerated fashion. The vote in the Energy Committee was 16 for and only 5 against. This bill is on the Senate Calendar now, and it is the kind of constructive, bipartisan approach to our energy challenges that we should be embracing.