Oil crisis leads to calls for offshore drilling in the Great Lakes

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Republican politicians across the country, led by Sen. John McCain and President George Bush, began calling for offshore drilling as a solution to high gasoline prices, often despite their prior positions. No surprise then that Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., became one of the more vociferous proponents of offshore drilling as a co-sponsor of the “No More Excuses Act.”

“Offshore exploration of oil and natural gas will be very helpful in the short term to resolve our energy crisis, and I also understand that alternative energy solutions are the future,” Bachmann wrote on her blog. “But living in the here and now, we need to take all steps within reason to help drive oil costs down.”

Taking all steps within reason, at least Bachmann’s version of reason, could lead drilling for oil and natural gas in the Great Lakes. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 4.3 million barrels of oil and 5.23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie beneath the Great Lakes Basin.

In 2005, a bipartisan congressional vote permanently banned drilling in the Great Lakes. Canada did not follow suit, and currently allows for slant drilling from onshore. Congress can lift the ban at any time, so many in the region are on high alert.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., sent McCain a letter demanding to know what role the Great Lakes would play in the presidential candidate’s plan. A McCain aide quickly responded that the senator has no intention of opening up the Great Lakes to drilling.

On June 27, incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., when queried on Great Lakes drilling, responded by saying: “I’d take a look at it. I’m not saying I’d do it or not do it. I certainly say you take a look at everything and then you make a judgment on whether or not that makes sense.”

When Coleman’s statement was reported by MPR’s Tom Scheck, a Coleman spokesman quickly clarified that,”Senator Coleman just wants to know where our domestic resources are, but he is unequivocally opposed to drilling in the Great Lakes.”

The sensitivity toward the Great Lakes suggests some Republican’s fear the cheap political points scored off of rising gas prices today could cost them later.