A group of coastal-state politicos are scrambling to block a federal plan to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling. In June, governors from five East Coast states condemned the initiative. And in July, several congressmen tried, and failed, to insert an anti-drilling amendment into a spending bill.

These lawmakers claim that opening up America's coasts to oil and gas exploration will put the health and prosperity of local communities at risk. This argument doesn't hold water at any depth.

Truth is, offshore drilling is safer and less disruptive today than at any time in history. Developing coastal resources would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and generate billions in tax revenue.

Instead of treating offshore drilling as a threat, elected leaders should embrace it as an unprecedented economic opportunity.

The momentum is there. In 2017, America produced more combined crude oil and natural gas than any other country for the sixth year in a row. Our energy dominance will only grow in the coming years. According to the International Energy Agency, U.S. crude oil production will exceed that of Russia by 2019.

This is good news for the American economy. The oil and gas industries currently support more than 10 million jobs and contribute over $1 trillion to our economy each year.

But in order to remain a global oil and gas leader, however, the United States will have to take full advantage of its energy resources. That's where offshore drilling comes in.

Currently, energy development is prohibited in 94 percent of federal offshore areas. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, those regions could contain over 327 trillion cubic feet of gas and nearly 90 billion barrels of oil. That's enough natural gas and oil to fuel America for over 12 years at current consumption rates.

Leaving economic resources in the ground does nobody any good. That's why, in January, Interior secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to make over 90 percent of the nation's outer continental shelf available for drilling.

It's this policy that the governors of Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island -- together with some green activists and a handful of congressional lawmakers -- are determined to defeat. Their reasons for opposing offshore drilling, however, are doctrinaire  at best.

In Virginia alone, developing the Atlantic outer continental shelf is expected to create 25,000 jobs over the next two decades and boost the state's GDP by more than $2 billion annually by 2040.

Opponents of offshore drilling say that they are looking out for the best interests of their states -- and, indeed, their country. What they are actually doing is compromising a domestic energy boom that continues to create jobs and spur growth. And with current gasoline prices at worrisome levels, the lesson is that all supply, offshore and on, now and in the future, is required.

Robert L. Bradley Jr. is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.

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