The Senate was expected to pass over the weekend a continuing resolution that does not renew two bans: the 27-year-old congressional moratorium on offshore oil and natural gas drilling; and the ban on oil shale exploration in the Intermountain West.

The continuing resolution is considered a must-pass funding measure. Without it, the federal government would cease to operate after Sept. 30, and no one — including members of Congress — would be paid. As with the House, the continuing resolution in the Senate will not renew the ban on drilling in the federal Outer Continental Shelf. The only dispute may be over whether the continuing resolution should fund the government for five months through March 6 or for a shorter period (possibly six weeks), a Capitol Hill aide said.

House Democrats, who waged a lengthy battle against offshore drilling, conceded that the odds of renewing the ban over the opposition of the White House were slim this year.

The continuing resolution cleared the House by 370 to 58 Wednesday. House Democrats initially had wanted to insert the House-passed energy bill (HR 6899), which would have restricted drilling to 50 miles or more off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, in the stopgap spending measure (see Daily GPI, Sept. 18).

But the White House forced their hand. As a result, when the existing congressional moratorium expires this week, oil and gas leasing will be permitted as close as three miles from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico — except off the western coast of Florida. A 125-mile buffer off the Florida coast will remain in place until 2022.

A new survey said the public supports an energy policy that includes both drilling and alternative fuels. “Voters are fed up with partisan bickering in Washington over energy policy…and they want Democrats and Republicans to work together and achieve a compromise solution that [focuses] both on additional drilling for oil and on alternative energy and conservation measures,” said Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc., which conducted the survey on behalf of Consumers United for Energy Solutions, a Washington, DC-based group of energy consumers that support sustainable energy solutions.

Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed favored a broad policy energy — both drilling and renewable energy and conservation — while 31% preferred only conservation and renewable energy, and 10% supported expanded drilling as the only option.

The results were culled from a national survey of 807 likely voters conducted between Sept. 11 and Sept. 14.

©Copyright 2008Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.