DOE Defends Bid to Repeal Ultra-Deepwater Research Program

Energy Department officials defended the Bush administration's effort today to repeal the ultra-deepwater oil-and-gas research program but said the program would run on its normal schedule until Congress takes action.

Thomas Shope, assistant secretary for fossil energy, told a House Science and Technology subcommittee that the department's intention is to comply with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That law laid out $50 million in direct spending for unconventional onshore and ultra-deepwater offshore natural gas exploration technologies for small, independent oil-and-gas producers.

DOE has established two advisory committees called for in the bill and issued its first contracts in December.

But Shope insisted the administration wants to repeal the law because energy markets already provide adequate stimulation for that type of research.

Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-Texas) called the idea "foolish" and said Congress would not repeal the law, even as Shope said that smaller independent producers would get access to the research through the many service companies they employ to develop their reserves.

The plan was also criticized by Republicans. Rep. Ralph Hall (Texas) said that while he "would absolutely jump in the fire for" Bush, the president is wrong about the program.

"You've got to have a bill come through here," Hall said of the repeal effort. And that, he added, is not likely.

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