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McCain to Propose Lifting Off-Shore Drilling Moratorium

With Americans struggling under $4 per gallon gas and the oil industry increasing its pressure on Congress to allow more oil and natural gas exploration and production on federal lands, Sen. John McCain said at a press conference today that he will propose lifting the federally-imposed moratorium on off-shore oil exploration. McCain will give a speech on energy policy tomorrow in Houston.

"I think that this, and perhaps providing additional incentives for states to permit exploration off their coasts, would be very helpful in the short term in resolving our energy crisis. We’ve seen the impact of it in the form of food prices, the form of gasoline, and the form of threats of inflation, and indeed indications of inflation. We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gases through the development of alternative energy sources. And, as I said, exploration is a step toward the longer term goal. And, I will repeat my advocacy of a gas tax holiday, which is impacting low-income Americans on a fixed income who are driving automobiles that consume gasoline at a greater rate, and they’re driving further, and I think that they deserve a break."

Despite his willingness to open off-shore areas to drilling, the McCain campaign has reaffirmed the Arizona senator’s commitment not to allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — long a target for Congressional Republicans eager to increase America’s oil production — as recently as last week. While lifting the moratorium may be a small step toward energy independence in the long-term, it’s hard to see how it will provide much relief to American consumers in the short-term, as McCain claims. As The Wall Street Journal notes, once an oil field is discovered, it frequently takes "years of mapping, testing, drilling and construction" to bring it online and begin production. Of course, in an election year, the appearance of taking swift action on an issue over which the government really has little control is more an important than results.

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