Oil and gas inventory may come soon to a coastline near you

The Senate effectively approved an inventory of oil and gas reserves in U.S. coastal waters yesterday, a move that could help open the door for offshore drilling to begin after a decades-long moratorium expires in 2012. The 52-44 vote defeated an amendment sponsored by Florida Sens. Mel Martinez (R) and Bill Nelson (D) to delete the inventory from the federal energy bill. The vote didn’t fall along party lines: Democratic lawmakers from some oil and gas states, like Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, backed the inventory and asserted that more domestic drilling is vital to national security and lower oil prices; Republican legislators from some coastal states countered that the inventory would damage sensitive marine environments crucial to healthy tourism and waste up to $1 billion in taxpayer funds. The vote is a huge defeat for the Florida senators, who thought as late as last week that their amendment had the necessary support. Said Martinez, “Leave our state alone.”