Late last night a majority of my colleagues joined me in voting to protect our coasts from the threat of new offshore oil and gas drilling.  A bipartisan, bicoastal coalition came together to soundly reject a series of misguided amendments to the FY2008 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.  These amendments called for more dirty, dangerous, and unnecessary offshore drilling and would have overturned the 25 year old Congressional ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Despite broad support for the ban, in recent years these protections have come under increasing threat from the oil and gas industry and their supporters in Washington, including this year.  While the Bush administration's failed energy policies have spawned high gas prices and failed to end our country's addiction to fossil fuels, drilling advocates have attempted to scapegoat the ban on new drilling as the root of all our energy woes.  The reality is that the oil and gas industries already have access to the vast majority of the oil and gas reserves because they are located in the areas of the OCS that are already open to drilling, primarily the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico.  Despite this access, including over 4,000 untapped leases in the Gulf alone, the oil and gas companies are trying to claim they don't have enough places to drill.  It seems to me that their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

Besides the fact that there are plenty of oil and gas reserves open for drilling, lifting the ban on new offshore drilling is not the silver bullet for meeting our energy needs as the oil and gas industry would have us believe.  This drill only approach to meeting our energy needs isn't ending our addiction to fossil fuels, it's enabling it.  If we really want to break the cycle of addiction we have to redouble our efforts to reduce demand, enhance efficiency, and invest in renewable energy sources.  By focusing our efforts on developing sound, smart energy solutions we gain true energy dependence and protect our valuable coastal resources.  Now that's an energy policy we can be proud of.