Recent inRich.com article:
- And Democratic candidate Brian Moran is reluctant to dig into the deep "at this time."
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior opened a 45-day public-comment period on offshore drilling, part of the process to consider leasing land off the Virginia coast in 2011 for oil and gas exploration.
The area considered for drilling is a 2.9 million-acre slice of the ocean floor more than 50 miles east of Virginia Beach and the state's Eastern Shore. The Interior Department estimates it could contain 130 million barrels of oil and 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Interior's announcement comes less than six weeks after Congress let a moratorium on offshore drilling expire and two months before a change of presidential administrations.
So yesterday, the four men expected to compete for the governor's job outlined their positions on the politically combustible issue. It rose to prominence this year as gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon and energy independence took center stage in the presidential race.
"The attorney general strongly supports offshore drilling for oil and natural gas," said Phil Cox, campaign strategist for McDonnell, Virginia's attorney general and a former member of the House of Delegates from Virginia Beach.
"He believes that advances in technology over the past two decades give us the ability to drill offshore in an environmentally friendly way and believes offshore drilling will help to create new American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy," Cox added.
State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, favors "environmentally safe offshore drilling." He said such drilling would need to generate royalties and not interfere with the military, tourism and fishing industries. He said it should be explored as part of a broad proposal to develop new energy technology and alternative fuel production in the commonwealth.
"By linking our world-class research institutions with a statewide energy initiative, we will create new jobs and solve the biggest issue of our generation," he said.
Terry McAuliffe, an unannounced candidate for the Democratic nomination, is staking out a position that recalls that of current Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.
Like the governor, McAuliffe favors exploration offshore for natural gas but not oil.
McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the federal push for drilling along the Virginia coast is a last gasp for the departing Bush administration.
"This is Bush trying to get some stuff done at the end," he said.
President-elect Barack Obama has said he is open to offshore energy exploration, but he has the option not to proceed with the sale of leases.
McAuliffe noted the concerns of the military, which worries that drilling platforms could be a hazard to U.S. warships and aircraft.
Another Democratic prospect, Del. Brian J. Moran of Alexandria, opposes exploration for oil and gas "at this time," according to his spokesman, Jesse Ferguson.
"Our first priority should be alternative and renewable energy sources, not drilling for more of a 19th-century energy source," Ferguson said.
Ferguson also said it has not been proved that Virginia oil and gas reserves are a "long-term solution" to energy needs.
He said Moran believes offshore exploration is a potential threat to the environment and to the appeal of Virginia Beach, among other shore points, as a tourist destination.