July 16, 2008

Senate Candidate, Incumbent Offer Opinions on Lifting of Offshore Drilling Ban

By D. E. Smoot, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.

Jul. 16--The leading Democratic contender for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Jim Inhofe said the president's lifting of a ban for offshore drilling is a hollow gesture.

State Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, said President Bush's lifting of the executive moratorium imposed by his father in 1990 will do nothing to lower gasoline prices in the short term or "break America's dependence on foreign oil."

Inhofe said lifting the ban, if followed with a reciprocal move by Congress, could make 19 billion barrels of recoverable oil available to consumers during the near future.

"At today's import levels, this is the equivalent of 35 years of imports from Saudi Arabia," Inhofe said in an article distributed by the Associated Press.

Rice, who must defeat Democratic challenger Jim Rogers during the July 29 primary election before going head-to-head with Inhofe, said any offshore initiative should complement the development of alternative energy resources. Only then, Rice said, will there be any chance of providing Americans with affordable choices for energy.

"I agree with T. Boone Pickens' assessment that the U.S. cannot drill our way out of this problem," Rice said in a written statement released to the media. "I believe that any offshore exploration initiative should be accompanied by vigorous alternative energy development that gives Americans affordable choices for our energy supply."

The executive order lifted Monday by Bush has been in place since 1990, when the president's father, President George H.W. Bush, was in the White House. The congressional ban stretches back further. Both were imposed to protect environmentally fragile and economically vital areas in states such as California and Texas.

In responding to news of Bush's lifting of the executive ban on offshore drilling, Rice took the opportunity to distinguish his position on energy issues by attacking the state's senior U.S. senator's recent voting record.

"If Jim Inhofe really supports energy independence, he'll stop opposing investments in alternative energies and better fuel efficiency," Rice said. "He'll stop protecting subsidies for oil companies that are enjoying record profits."

Inhofe said Tuesday in a media release that he does not oppose alternative energies. He praised the announcement by Oklahoma-based power company OG&E Energy Corp. of its plans to form a joint venture, Horizon Transmission LLC, which will build high voltage transmission lines for the expansion of wind-generated energy in western Oklahoma.

"Through my leadership position on the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have long worked toward legislative solutions to encourage the development and production of energy from a variety of sources including oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable sources such as wind," Inhofe said. "Developing and expanding domestic energy resources will translate into energy security and will ensure stable sources of supply and well-paying jobs for Oklahomans and Americans."

Inhofe, who is seeking his third full term, faces three primary opponents. Dennis Lopez of Thackerville and Ted Ryals of Oklahoma City are political newcomers. Evelyn L. Rogers is a perennial candidate from Tulsa.

Stephen P. Wallace, also of Tulsa, is running for Inhofe's Senate seat as an independent.


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