Wicker Continues Call for Increased Offshore Energy Exploration

Senator Co-Chairs Hearing to Discuss Producing More Offshore Oil and Gas Reserves

September 18, 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today continued his call for increasing America’s offshore energy production.  Wicker’s comments came during a hearing he co-chaired on Capitol Hill that highlighted our nation’s vast offshore oil and gas reserves and the new technologies that allow for their production in an environmentally safe way. 

“As Americans continue to cope with high gas prices – and as our country continues to work through economic uncertainties of the housing and credit markets – now is exactly the time to be making policy changes that ensure our future energy security,” Sen. Wicker said.  “In Mississippi, we’re no stranger to offshore drilling.  We know it can be done in an environmentally friendly way.  The U.S. is the world’s only developed nation that restricts access to its offshore energy resources, and it is past time to change that.” 

At today’s hearing, Wicker and his colleagues heard from experts in the energy industry and the academic community.  The witnesses discussed America’s offshore energy supply potential, cutting-edge drilling technologies, and environmental safeguards. 

Wicker said that our country’s transition to an economy that relies less on fossil fuel will take decades and that steps need to be taken now to utilize our oil and gas reserves in the years ahead.  “I do not believe that drilling alone is the answer, but choosing not to increase drilling would be irresponsible and, quite frankly, ignore reality,” he said.   

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that fossil fuels will continue to meet at least 80 percent of energy demand both here in the U.S. and globally through 2030, even with a tremendous growth in alternative and renewable fuels. 

America’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) encompasses 1.7 billion acres of underwater taxpayer-owned land, containing an estimated 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  Oil and gas leasing has been prohibited in most of the OCS since 1982.  Today, 97 percent of America’s offshore OCS lands are not leased for energy exploration.

Sen. Wicker has consistently worked to increase offshore energy production.  Wicker is a cosponsor of the Gas Price Reduction Act (S. 3202), legislation that allows for deep sea exploration off our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.  The bill would also lift the moratorium on oil shale development in the Rocky Mountain West, where there is an estimated two trillion barrels of recoverable oil in only three states.  Additionally, the measure would increase investment in electric car technology to help lessen our country’s reliance on fossil fuels as well as strengthen the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) ability to prevent speculators from artificially driving up the price of gas.

Wicker has also pushed for action on the American Energy Production Act (S. 2958), legislation that would produce up to 24 billion barrels of oil – enough to supply America without foreign imports for five years.  The measure would utilize America’s deep sea oil and gas resources while also allowing for exploration in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.  The legislation would also make billions more barrels of American-made fuel available through the development of coal-to-liquid technology and oil shale.