Our Views: Open offshore oil and gas

With the revolution in energy production from fracking and horizontal drilling, the United States is reaping vast benefits. But we could do better, with politics preventing the expansion of drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

For Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the good news in energy production was a theme of his talk to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. Unconventional oil plays and shale drilling have directly provided or indirectly supported about 80,000 jobs and created billions in economic activity, Donohue said.

And he noted the collateral benefit in cheaper natural gas that is reviving petrochemical manufacturing. “I would tell you there are probably 50 European companies right now walking around this part of the United States, looking for places to put a factory,” Donohue said.

The missed opportunity? More than 80 percent of offshore energy potential is off-limits.

In Louisiana, even in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion of 2010, the potential for offshore energy is demonstrated in the mostly safe and reliable production in the Gulf of Mexico.

If nothing else, the furor over the oil leak in the Gulf has pushed for stronger protections for worker and environmental safety. And even a cheerleader for industry such as Donohue noted that safety and effective regulation are necessary parts of the new energy equation.

We hope that, despite the events of 2010, the nation will undertake a thorough assessment of new offshore tracts. It would be nice to know what’s out there. And, properly regulated, offshore drilling can be done safely and would significantly boost the U.S. economy in future years.