Our Views: Riches await in the Gulf

While there has been much attention paid to the development of shale oil and gas on land, the first visit of the new secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior to the oil patch is a reminder that immense natural wealth remains to be tapped offshore.

Sally Jewell, a business executive tapped by President Barack Obama to lead Interior, visited a drilling rig and visited with employees — including those who will enforce what everyone hopes to be more-effective protections against disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon of three years ago.

“Maintaining the public’s trust in the safety and environmental performance of oil and gas production is critically important as we continue to tap into the Gulf’s abundant resource potential,” Jewell told the employees.

Truer words were never spoken by a bureaucrat, and it is vital for the nation’s energy future that production and safety go hand in hand.

Interior rightly touts the energy potential in the Gulf of Mexico. The central Gulf holds more than 30 billion barrels of oil and about 134 trillion cubic feet of natural gas yet to be discovered. The western Gulf of Mexico is estimated to contain 12 billion barrels of oil and nearly 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, as of a 2011 assessment.

But while these are vital resources for America’s economy, significant energy resources should be assessed and eventually tapped off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. To Obama’s credit, as well as state officials in some of the states of the eastern seaboard, development of Atlantic resources was on the administration’s agenda, but the Deepwater Horizon blowout made those plans politically difficult, if not impossible, for all concerned.

Eventually, though, those potential sources of oil and gas should be part of, in Jewell’s words, “powering our nation and strengthening our economy.”