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U.S. Energy Dilemma: To Drill Or Not To Drill

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America's energy needs--and what should or should not be for them--are on the minds of many in Washington D.C. The U.S. House of Representatives postponed a vote this week on a Senate-approved bill to allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Also – President George W. Bush is considering suspending a moratorium on oil and natural gas drilling in Bristol Bay in Alaska – which is home to the world’s largest wild salmon run.

Supporters of these policies say this untapped supply could provide the U.S. with much-needed energy independence. Environmentalists say oil drilling has done enough damage.

Bob Greco is the upstream group director at the American Petroleum Institute. He appeared on “Power Lunch” today with Bill Griffeth armed with a host of facts on oil drilling in the U.S.: Of the offshore resources available – 80% are off limits to development. The Senate bill would open a narrow slice of that – mainly in areas off the coast of Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. He called the legislation a “decent first step” toward energy independence.

The positive spin on the bill comes from the proposed use of revenue from drilling. Places that were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina would get a portion of the money generated to rebuild and replenish precious wetlands.

Athan Manuel of the Sierra Club was on today as well – and he says there are better ways to help the environment. Not to mention – oil drilling on land has actually been destroying wetlands in Louisiana – he says.

Greco and Manuel disagree on the extent to which offshore drilling will alleviate America's “oil addiction” – to quote President Bush. Greco says the continental shelf alone could displace Persian Gulf imports for 25 years. Manuel says there isn’t enough oil left anywhere in the U.S. to bring gas prices down or make the country energy independent.

Manuel calls for the development of clean and renewable fuels. Greco says there’s too much demand in the near term to deny the need for drilling.