By Charlie Russell
President Obama may announce today a plan that would allow oil and gas exploration and drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts including some 3 million acres off the coast of Virginia. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 4 billion barrels of oil and 37 billion cubic ft. of natural gas off the Atlantic coast and over 10 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic ft. of natural gas off the Pacific Coast. The plan would also allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to expand into the eastern part of the Gulf.
President Bush allowed the ban to expire in 2009 and wanted to allow exploration to begin in 2011. The Obama administration has stated that the beginning date for exploration would be pushed back but has not given a specific date.
Goveror McDonnell has called on the administration to allow drilling off the Virginia Coast hoping to get some of the royalties to help with Virginias transportation problems. The proposed drilling area is located 50 miles offshore and is believed to hold 1.4 million barrels of oil and over a trillion cubic ft. of natural gas.
Environmental groups oppose the plan citing the potential for oil spills and NASA has objected on the grounds that oil rigs could affect their attempts to shoot rockets from the Wallops Island site. Supporters contend that the necessity for the United States to become energy self sufficient outweighs the environmental risks. But sport fishermen hope the rigs will attract game fish as they do in the western Gulf of Mexico.
The effect of offshore drilling on the Eastern Shore isnt fully known yet but supporters hope the jobs and economic benefits will help the local economy. The issue is sure to generate strong local debate in the immediate future.
The Obama Administration is hoping todays announcement will help it attract Republican support for a long term energy bill that will reduce the use of coal and reduce so called greenhouse gas emissions. The administration also hopes it will reduce our vulnerability to instability in the Middle East
We'll have more details as they become available.