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Offshore drilling debate goes on

Scott Tong Jul 31, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Global warming or not, fossil fuels are most of the energy supply we have At least until we find something better. And right now energy companies are restricted as to where they can drill for more. Offshore it’s mostly the western part of the Gulf of Mexico. The House of Representatives has voted to open up some new real estate. The Senate has its own plan. Not quite as generous. But Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports you never know what the final version’s gonna be.

SCOTT TONG: The Senate bill opens up 8 million acres in the gulf directly south of the Florida Panhandle. The spot has a catchy name: Lease Area 181. Industry analyst Kevin Book:

KEVIN BOOK: Lease 181 has been probably the most talked about piece of offshore real estate in the history of offshore production.

Book suspects there’s enough natural gas down there perhaps to supply Americans for three months. That’s compared to four years of supply in the House bill, which allows more drilling, closer to land. And that’s what Florida senators want to avoid in their bill and they succeeded. Here’s Republican Mel Martinez.

MEL MARTINEZ: What makes Florida’s economy be so thriving and important is the tourism. Before there was Disney and Universal Studios and those types of attractions. There was beaches. And at the end of the day that is our calling card.

The Senate legislation will likely pass tomorrow, setting up tough negotiations with the House. In the end many suspect the drilling bill will meet the same fate as Social Security and lobbying reform — it’ll die. Still, Karen Wayland of Natural Resources Defense Council says politicians will claim credit for energy independence when all they’ve really done is vote for more drilling.

KAREN WAYLAND: Instead of really addressing our energy problems by increasing the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks. We know that that’s the fastest, cleanest, cheapest way to reduce our dependence on oil.

Even if this bill becomes law, she notes it’ll take three, maybe seven years before the oil and gas start to flow.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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