Wall Street Journal | Jim Webb and Jim Nicholson | July 15, 2019
Offshore oil exploration has become the strategic bull’s-eye of America’s energy debate. A recent federal court decision blocked the Trump administration’s reversal of President Obama’s late-term executive order that withdrew certain areas in Alaska from offshore oil exploration. The court’s decision, based on a tortured interpretation of a 1953 law, will likely be reversed on appeal. But for now it has halted a renewal of offshore oil exploration.
At the same time, bills are pending in Congress that could stop expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration off the East, West, Gulf and Alaskan coasts. As much as 94% of the Outer Continental Shelf has been off-limits to oil and natural gas leasing since 1984, making it difficult even to evaluate the extent of resources there through seismic research. Trends in global offshore exploration suggest these resources are vast.
Americans should think hard about whether such draconian restrictions are needed—and about the costs in terms of economic and national security. Over the past nine years the U.S. oil-and-gas industry has implemented advanced exploration technology, sophisticated production methods, better safety procedures and a program of close cooperation with the government.
Read the full op-ed here.
Mr. Webb served as Navy secretary (1987-88) and a U.S. senator from Virginia (2007-13). Mr. Nicholson served as secretary of veterans affairs (2005-07). They are co-chairmen of the Explore Offshore coalition.