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Raymond J. Learsy

Raymond J. Learsy

Posted: March 31, 2010 09:33 AM

Obama's Brave Decison to Drill Offshore

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In an act of vision and courage, given the hostage the nation has become to the oil industry, oil interests, and the likes of OPEC, the Obama administration is proposing opening vast expanses along the Atlantic coastline, the Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling.

This is a momentous moment and brings to mind the leadership of another time and another president. In the depth of the depression, President Roosevelt, with courage and imagination, sought different solutions to confront the crippling economic conditions that had descended on the nation. He petitioned Congress to mandate the creation of "a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of private enterprise". In May 1933 Congress passed the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) Act to revitalize the economically stricken Tennessee Valley in areas of power generation, river navigation, flood control, reforestation and erosion control. It became outstandingly successful in each category.

During the war years the TVA set upon perhaps the largest hydroelectric construction program ever undertaken in the United States, building 12 major hydroelectric plants to provide power to critical war industries. To this day the TVA has an aggressive clean air program and in this and many other areas as well, has set a standard for public responsibility against which private companies can be measured.

Given the massive rise in oil prices over the last decade and the distortions we have experienced in the oil markets, we as a nation have lost virtually all vestige of trust in the oil industry to develop our resources on federal lands or at sea in a way that benefits all Americans. As presently constituted, the oil-concession system is an abomination that has benefited virtually no one but the oil companies at great expense to the nation as a whole.

Clearly this aberration of a loaded system benefiting just one element of society -- the oil industry -- with its powerful and moneyed interests and influence must stop. Drilling offshore on federally controlled areas is the place to start.

We are at a crossroads for President Obama to seize the moment by establishing our own National Oil Trust. It could be modeled after our own experience with the TVA and that of the world's third largest energy exporter, Norway's National Oil Trust.

Norway's Oil Trust's stated objective is to contribute and create the greatest public value for Norwegian society from Norway's oil and gas deposits. Profits from the Norway's oil and gas operations accrue to the Norwegian Government's Pension Fund and is invested in conservative bonds and investments.

Were we to have a similar program, the trust could be mandated to direct its revenues toward developing alternative energy programs and to expand mass transportation, thereby becoming a cornerstone for energy independence and combating climate change.

Norway's Oil Trust is a source of national pride and accomplishment. So too would a sense of pride and accomplishment accrue to us with our own National Oil Trust. President Obama, now is the moment to build on Roosevelt's legacy!