Reid to Focus on Oil Market Speculation

Posted July 14, 2008 at 2:30pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday afternoon that the Senate will first tackle speculation in the oil markets before seeking to increase offshore drilling.

On the same day that President Bush lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling, Reid said he wanted to look at “realistic” solutions to the energy crisis that would garner both Democratic and GOP support.

For months, Democrats have largely focused on market speculation as the main reason behind record gasoline prices. But sensing a political opening for immediate action, Republicans have been pounding Democrats for alleged opposition to offshore drilling, even though Democrats claim that oil companies own vast swaths of land that is being underutilized and that more drilling would take years to yield results.

“Market speculation is a problem. It is a serious problem. Is it the only problem?” Reid said. “Of course it isn’t.”

Although Bush has declared he will lift the executive ban on offshore drilling, Congress must lift its own ban, which expires on Sept. 30, for it to become reality.

Reid questioned why some oil companies that have leases on approved lands have not taken full advantage of those areas, arguing that in order for Congress to approve more oil exploration, those areas need to be tapped.

Moreover, Reid avoided a question about individual states having the right to lease lands along their coasts for oil drilling, leaving Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) to voice his opposition to it.

Bingaman said that it did not make “good national policy” to leave it up to the states to lease the lands and thus reap the benefits.

Republicans are sure to harp on Democrats for their limited proposal.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) criticized Reid’s comments as “half a road map” for finding more domestic oil.