Jim Webb, Mark Warner: Consider Offshore Drilling

By August 27, 2008Energy

The Hill reports from a breakfast of Virginia delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where first-term Sen. Jim Webb was the guest speaker:

“One of the great mistakes that we made in terms of political strategy before we broke for this latest recess was not taking on the Republican Party when they started talking about offshore drilling,” Webb said.

“I believe that our leadership made a very bad mistake. I don’t think we should run from that issue. I think we should say, ‘Let’s find out what’s out there. Let’s explore.’ Then you can have the debate about whether environmentally it’s worth drilling,” he added.

Virginia’s elected officials of both political parties have shown a refreshing willingness to consider OCS drilling off the state’s coast. Former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) spoke to Grist, the online environmental magazine/news service, the other day and addressed the issue.

Where I might differ from some in the environmental community [is] I really think as a national price issue, you’ve got to have a whole portfolio. I think it’s solar. I think it’s wind. I think it’s biofuels, although I think the idea of the government trying to pick a winner the way we did with corn-based ethanol is not the right approach. I think you’ve got to continue the research for carbon capture and sequestration for coal. You have to take a fresh look at nuclear. I think [it should include] conservation in the grid. I even think that as part of a comprehensive approach you’ve got to [have] increased domestic [oil] production, including lifting the congressional moratorium on [offshore] drilling, as long as states can still do it in an environmentally friendly way, since the technology around the rigs has dramatically improved. You still have transport issues, but in terms of the rigs themselves they’re much better.

And …

I think there are clearly less issues around natural gas in terms of safety issues than there are around oil, but if we are going to find oil, and it’s sufficiently offshore in the 50-mile range, and it can be shown that it’s done in a safe way, then I think it ought to be part of the mix. We’ve seen even post-Katrina there was not a dramatic challenge with the rigs. There were some problems in terms of transporting the fuel, but there weren’t problems with the rigs.

The willingness of these Democrats to disagree with their party’s Congressional leadership is the interesting political development. For the sake of fairness, though, we should also note that former Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore, running against Warner for the U.S. Senate, has made energy development a key component of his campaign.

UPDATE (noon): And at the Republican Platform Committee, House Minority Leader John Boehner stops by to promote domestic energy production. From National Review Online: “Our members have been on the floor for three weeks waiting for Nancy Pelosi to call Congress back into session to vote on our all-of-the-above energy plan,” he said. “When we get back in September, this issue is not going away.”

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