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Offshore Oil


OFFSHORE OIL and gas development in the United States since the mid-1970s has responded largely to pressures from two sources: the efforts of the federal government to reduce dependence on foreign oil and efforts by environmentalists and conservationists to reduce energy consumption, especially of fossil fuels.

Aside from the Arab oil embargo of 1973–1974 and the U.S. embargo on Iranian oil, in effect from 1979 to 1981, the trend in the industry has been toward low prices and oversupply of foreign crude oil. It was not until the oil shocks of the 1970s that there was an incentive to expand offshore exploration and production. With the low prices that have prevailed since 1986, expensive and labor-intensive recovery techniques have lost their economic feasibility. Since the 1970s U.S. energy policy has emphasized environmental protection and the conservation of U.S. reserves. The federal government has developed stringent environmental regulations governing the exploration and development of offshore crude-oil fields. Opposition to offshore drilling is strong, especially in California. As early as 1975, California's State Lands Commission halted drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel, and the National Energy Policy Act of 1992 came close to banning offshore drilling. Federal regulations imposed a leasing moratorium on sections of the Outer Continental Shelf and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Placing limitations on offshore oil drilling remained a popular political move into the next decade. For instance, in 2000 President Bill Clinton issued an executive order creating New Ocean Conservation Zones and forbidding drilling in such designated areas. In 2002 the federal government under President George W. Bush bought back from various petroleum companies the right to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida. The Bush administration also urged Congress to re-open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, but the proposal was stalled by stiff opposition in both houses of Congress and among outraged environ-mental activists.


Freudenburg, William R., and Robert Gramling. Oil in Troubled Waters: Perception, Politics, and the Battle over Offshore Drilling. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Gramling, Robert. Oil on the Edge: Offshore Development, Conflict, Gridlock. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

Stephen J.Randall/a. e.

See alsoEnergy Industry ; Government Regulation of Business ; Louisiana ; Petroleum Industry ; Petroleum Prospecting and Technology ; Tidelands .

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