On the Spot (CNSNews.com) – If Democratic leaders allow a vote on expanded domestic oil drilling, it will be a direct result of money donated from by the oil industry to the 110th Congress, Nadine Bloch, the campaign director for the liberal group Oil Change International, told CNSNews.com at a Capitol Hill protest on Tuesday.
But Nan Swift, the campaign coordinator at the conservative organization Freedom Works, said the fact that there has been no vote to lift the offshore drilling ban is proof that oil money has less influence than Bloch claims.
“There is so much oil money in Congress that I would say that there would be an implication in that vote, very clearly,” said Bloch when CNSNews.com asked her about the possibility of a vote in Congress to lift the ban. “We have paid-off people [members of Congress] who are voting in the interest of Big Oil rather than (voting) for the people.”
“In general the politicians are failing the public and they are failing the world. Oil money in Congress has polluted our democracy to such an extent that it is no longer functioning democratically,” Bloch said.
Nevertheless, Bloch added that she does not believe there will be a vote to expand domestic oil drilling this year.
But Swift told CNSNews.com that if oil money is as influential in the legislative process as Bloch claims, there already would have been a vote on drilling.
“The fact that we don’t have a vote so far goes to show that the oil lobby does not have that much influence,” said Swift. “If they had so much influence, we would have had a vote long before.”
If Congress does allow a vote to lift its offshore drilling ban, it will be because of pressure from Americans who are paying high prices at the pump, Swift said.
“There are people losing their jobs because they can’t get to work,” said Swift. “Food prices will continue to increase because you need gas to run the tractors. Every society needs energy. That’s what runs the economy. If there is a not a vote, we will continue to see prices go up and our economy stagnating.”
But Bloch said she believes that expanded drilling is a red herring, not a viable solution to energy prices.
“More drilling will not address the real issues of energy security here in the United States or bring down the costs of fuel,” Bloch told CNSNews.com.
Congress imposed its moratorium on offshore drilling in 1981 and has extended it annually 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 presidential ban on offshore drilling that was put into place by his father George H.W. Bush in 1990 and sustained by President Bill Clinton.
Bush’s gesture was largely symbolic, however, since the Congressional moratorium on offshore oil drilling has not been lifted.
Last Friday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) -- in a change of policy -- announced that he would be willing to open 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 Friday. “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.”
Politico.com also reported on Tuesday that Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)-- who strongly opposes expanded domestic oil drilling -- has encouraged rank and file Democrats to support increased drilling if they believe it will help them win their elections in November.