Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gulf Drilling: The 'Same Old Dance'

Denver convention goers yesterday were greeted with this op-ed editorial in the Rocky Mountain News by former Montana U.S. Congressman Pat Williams: "Big Oil, Congress Do the Same Old Dance."

A reminder, for those mainlanders who have forgotten, that what's driving proposals to drill for oil and gas off the near-shore of Pensacola Beach, Florida, isn't really energy independence. It's the same greedy opportunism that drove efforts thirty-five years ago to despoil the Rocky Mountain Front and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Here's an excerpt from Congressman Williams' history lesson:
The policies of both presidential candidates, President Bush, and the mostly Republican members of the U. S. Congress to begin oil drilling in the waters off our coasts comes at one of those rare political moments during which unfortunate events collide, roiling the waters and creating a clamor for immediate action – action which would not be taken in calmer seas.
* * *
We Rocky Mountain westerners have watched this scenario of moneyed, political opportunism play out many times. As Montana's Congressman during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, I was deeply involved in one of these mad scrambles for oil. The same set of criteria for opportunism had come together back then. War in the Middle East, inflation, high prices and long lines at the gas pumps offered big oil the perfect moment and they moved to open up drilling opportunities in some of America's most pristine and important places. The companies successfully enlisted the support of then President Ronald Reagan and his Secretary of the Interior, James Watt.

The exploration and drilling assault was to begin of all places, in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front and The Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Reagan and Watt, as it turned out, picked the wrong place. Despite the perceived energy shortages, long lines at the pump, and soaring gasoline prices, all due to the Arab Oil Embargo, Montanans and Americans refused to take the bait. The opposition to exploration and drilling in our last best place was widespread and the Congress accepted my resolution to prevent opening the Bob – and other wilderness areas – to the bit and bidding of the oil companies. Should our companies drill for oil? Of course . . . and they are. But reason demands that appropriate restraints be applied.

There's more and it's worth reading.

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