Parties Set to Work Together on Drilling

Posted July 11, 2008 at 2:33pm

Despite a split between party leaders on the role of drilling in bringing down gas prices, House lawmakers appear ready to inject bipartisanship into energy discussions during the week of July 14. On Tuesday, Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and John Peterson (R-Pa.) are set to announce a bipartisan working group of 20 lawmakers — 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans — who are united on the issue of new drilling, among other approaches, in response to skyrocketing gas costs. The group’s efforts are a direct challenge to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who on Thursday described what have been largely Republican calls to open up new areas to drilling as “a hoax.” House Democratic leaders have argued that opening up protected areas for drilling will do nothing to lower gas prices anytime soon. Instead, they have put forward proposals aimed at making oil companies produce from more of the federal lands that are already open. In that vein, Democratic leaders have said to expect an energy package on the floor as soon as this week that would speed up current drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and require that oil to be sold domestically. Other proposals in the package would call for reconstituting an export ban on Alaskan oil and building more oil and gas pipelines from Alaska to the contiguous United States. But Abercrombie said it would be “a death struggle” if both parties stay locked in opposing political positions on the issue of drilling, instead of working together on a comprehensive energy solution. “We are sending hundreds of billions of dollars to other countries to buy oil — the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world — without fully and carefully considering the possibilities here at home,” Abercrombie said. Peterson called on party leaders to put politics aside “in order for us to remain competitive and rescue ourselves from a second Great Depression.” Meanwhile, in related news, the 30-Something Working Group of young Democrats is set to face off against pro-drilling Republicans in a two-hour debate on gas prices Monday night on the House floor. “They will have all of their charts and we will have all of our charts,” Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) said. Altmire said Democrats in the group, including Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Christopher Murphy (Conn.), Tim Ryan (Ohio) and Kendrick Meek (Fla.), will be joined by Reps. Bart Stupak (Mich.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.). The Republican side will include Reps. Peterson, Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Mike Conaway (Texas) and Tom Price (Ga.). Altmire said the two-hour session will be interactive and conversational between the two sides.