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Bartlett urges Congress to support offshore oil drilling

August 28, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN -- Offshore oil drilling is not a long-term solution to high fuel prices, but is necessary to show people that Congress is serious about bringing down energy costs, U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett said Wednesday at a press conference in Hagerstown.

Standing in front of a Liberty gas station on West Washington Street, Bartlett urged Congress to pass a bill that he said would allow oil drilling off the coast of the U.S. and use royalties and other revenue from that drilling to promote energy conservation.

"The only thing that will bring down the price of oil is to use less of it," Bartlett said. "But the promise of more drilling will allow people to rest easy in the meantime."

The bill - called the National Conservation, Environment and Energy Independence Act - would lift federal prohibitions on drilling 50 miles from shore in the outer continental shelf of the U.S..

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Drilling would be prohibited up to 25 miles from the shore, and states would have the authority to opt out of drilling between 25 and 50 miles from shore, according to a press release.

Federal revenue from drilling is estimated at $2.6 trillion, Bartlett said, and would be directed to federal reserve funds for conservation, environment restoration and renewable energy, among others.

Bartlett drew some criticism in May when, after years of opposing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), he said he would co-sponsor legislation that would allow oil and natural gas drilling in some parts of the Alaskan refuge.

On Wednesday, he repeated statements made earlier this year on the topic, saying he opposed ANWR drilling unless the revenue was used to fund alternative and renewable energy programs.

Drilling in ANWR would not be part of the bill promoted Wednesday, Bartlett said.

The bill also would extend tax credits for renewable energy that are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

The extension of the tax credits has bipartisan support in Congress, but elected officials have disagreed over how to pay for it, Bartlett said.

The bill, which has 125 co-sponsors, including 31 Democrats, would fund the tax credits with revenue from oil and natural gas drilling and by "modernizing the country's strategic oil reserve to today's refining capabilities," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said he hopes the bill will be passed before Congress adjourns in September.

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