Bush Goes to Work For McCain Camp
At a Rose Garden press conference today, President George W. Bush called for Congress to lift the federal moratorium on off-shore oil and natural gas exploration, just one day after Sen. John McCain made the same proposal. From the president’s prepared remarks:
[W]e should expand American oil production by increasing access to the Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS. Experts believe that the OCS could produce about 18 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to match America’s current oil production for almost 10 years. The problem is that Congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980s. Since then, advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats and protects against oil spills. With these advances — and a dramatic increase in oil prices — Congressional restrictions on OCS exploration have become outdated and counterproductive.
Republicans in Congress have proposed several promising bills that would lift the legislative ban on oil exploration in the OCS. I call on the House and the Senate to pass good legislation as soon as possible. This legislation should give the states the option of opening up OCS resources off their shores, provide a way for the federal government and states to share new leasing revenues, and ensure that our environment is protected. There’s also an executive prohibition on exploration in the OCS. When Congress lifts the legislative ban, I will lift the executive prohibition.
The president proposed increasing domestic oil production by "tapping into the extraordinary potential of oil shale," which he said could produce 800 billion barrels of oil, or " more than a century’s worth of currently projected oil imports." The president also restated his desire to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
[w]e should expand American oil production by permitting exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. When ANWR was created in 1980, Congress specifically reserved a portion for energy development. In 1995, Congress passed legislation allowing oil production in this small fraction of ANWR’s 19 million acres. With a drilling footprint of less than 2,000 acres — less than one-tenth of 1 percent of this distant Alaskan terrain — America could produce an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil.
That is roughly the equivalent of two decades of imported oil from Saudi Arabia. Yet my predecessor vetoed this bill. In the years since, the price of oil has increased seven-fold, and the price of American gasoline has more than tripled. Meanwhile, scientists have developed innovative techniques to reach ANWR’s oil with virtually no impact on the land or local wildlife.
McCain has long opposed drilling in ANWR, which he reaffirmed yesterday in his energy policy speech in Houston.
Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a "refuge" for a reason.
As Marc Ambinder notes, by plugging ANWR, Bush gets McCain to accept his support of the off-shore drilling proposal, while also giving McCain an opening in which to distance himself from the president. Bush also threw McCain a little freebie with a jab at Congressional Democrats, blaming them, least in part, for skyrocketing gas prices:
So my administration has repeatedly called on Congress to expand domestic oil production. Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal — and now Americans are paying the price at the pump for this obstruction.
Much has been written about McCain’s tightrope act in relation to the president. If he looks too close to Bush, he risks alienating moderates. If he distances himself too enthusiastically, he could anger the GOP’s conservative base. After the shameless 2000 primary season, when the Bush camp — led by Karl Rove — took South Carolina by spreading a rumor that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child, McCain sucked it up and campaigned for Bush’s reelection in 2004. It appears that Bush is now repaying the favor. It remains to be seen how active a role Bush takes in supporting McCain. Will he be relegated to making favorable policy proposals from the White House, or will he actually show up on the hustings to stump before friendly crowds?