On the Spot (CNSNews.com) – Republicans protesting on the House floor for the last two weeks and demanding Congress take action on high gas prices told CNSNews.com that they might accept some of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) “alternative energy” terms in exchange for a vote to lift the ban on new offshore oil drilling.
In a radio address Saturday, Pelosi indicated she may allow a vote to open further oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) if it is packaged with a number of energy alternatives that many Republicans oppose, but she did not specify when the vote might take place – this year or in early 2009.
“I think there is a lot we have in common with the speaker on renewables, on alternative energy and conservation efforts,” Rep. John Shimkus (D-Ill.) told CNSNews.com at a Monday press conference held by Republicans. “We are all there together on that.”
“If she [Pelosi] is willing to work a compromise in the open, then I think everyone here will be happy,” Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) told CNSNews.com. “We know that there is not just one magic bullet.”
Pelosi said she has a “comprehensive plan” for energy, which includes releasing oil from the 700 million barrel federal Strategic Petroleum Reserve(SPR), creating a federal Renewable Electricity Standard that would require oil companies to pay billions of dollars to invest in clean energy resources – and allowing limited offshore drilling.
The Democrats’ plan “will consider opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for drilling, with appropriate safeguards, and without taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil,” Pelosi said Saturday.
“A responsible domestic drilling program means an end to royalty holidays that deprive taxpayers of the royalties they deserve, an end to subsidies for profit-rich oil companies, and a requirement that Big Oil drill the oil leases they already own,” she added.
“We hope our Republican colleagues will join in a bipartisan effort, not only to increase domestic supply, but also to help consumers and to protect the environment,” said Pelosi.
But Hoekstra and other Republicans warned that while they are willing to negotiate with Pelosi, the vote must occur soon.
“If it’s a matter of crafting something in her back room and hoping the nation will just come along with her, that’s just inadmissible,” Hoekstra told CNSNews.com.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also accused Pelosi of not being serious about lifting energy prices in her “comprehensive plan.”
“While the speaker now claims to embrace a comprehensive energy plan that includes more conservation, more innovation, and more American energy production, the fact is her new effort appears to be just another flawed plan that will do little to lower gas prices," Boehner said in a statement Monday.
“If Pelosi was serious about boosting domestic oil supplies, she would call the House back into session to take up such a bill,” he added.
In her radio address, Pelosi did not indicate how or when her energy plan might be brought to the House floor, and her press office would not comment on the details of the plan despite requests from CNSNews.com.
The oil industry, meanwhile, is not embracing Pelosi's plan.
"It’s nice for Pelosi to start speaking about drilling," Judy Penniman, media representative for the American Petroleum Institute(API), a major trade association for U.S. oil and gas producers, told CNSNews.com on Monday.
"But the devil is in the details. We urge them to fully lift the moratorium. Any energy plan that fails to fully lift the moratorium represents a missed opportunity to energy supplies. We are opposed to any new taxes on the industry and increase on royalties on federal leases and production," she added.
Congress imposed its moratorium on offshore drilling in 1981 and has extended it each year since then for all coastal waters, except for parts of the Gulf of Mexico and some waters off the coast of Alaska.
In July, President Bush lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling that was put into place by his father George H.W. Bush in 1990 and sustained by President Bill Clinton.
The congressional moratorium on offshore oil drilling, however, has not been lifted.
Earlier in the month, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), in a change of policy, also announced that he would support opening select parts of Florida’s coast to more drilling.
"My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama told The Palm Beach Post on Aug. 1. "If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage – I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done."