House blocks attempt to lift ban on coastal drilling; more to come

An attempt to weaken the U.S. moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling — established by Congress in 1982 and renewed every year since — was blocked yesterday in the House by a 262-157 vote. However, drilling opponents view it as just the first and easiest battle in what is likely to be an extended war. An upcoming bipartisan Senate measure may be more difficult to thwart: It would offer individual states potentially billions of dollars in oil and gas leasing revenues as incentive to lift the ban. “It’s an effort to pick off one state at a time,” said Mark Ferrulo of the Florida Public Interest Research Group. The push to get at the oil and gas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Gulf of Mexico is driven in part by economics — cash-strapped states are desperate for new sources of revenue — and in part by the trendy but bogus argument that increasing domestic oil and gas production would lower gas prices and make America independent of foreign oil.