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Oil and gas bill to bring Alabama revenue

By By Jo Bonner
Legislation that will expand domestic offshore oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and allow Alabama and three other coastal states to share part of the federal revenues generated passed the House last Friday afternoon by a vote of 367-45.
With the 109th Congress quickly drawing to a close, the opportunity to increase oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was fleeting. There are no easy answers to our energy needs, but opening the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to drilling will benefit the entire country.
This legislation will bring a great deal of revenue to the state of Alabama.
The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, H.R. 6111, will open energy production in approximately 8 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling would be restricted to at least 125 miles off of Alabama's coast.
At a time when energy prices are fluctuating, we cannot allow America's offshore oil and natural gas leases to remain unused. It is good to end this Congress on a positive note.
At the writing of this column, the bill is headed back to the Senate for approval.
Iraq Study Group Releases Long-Awaited Report
"There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq. However, there are actions that can be taken to improve the situation and protect American interests," and so begins the Iraq Study Group's report.
The Baker-Hamilton Commission, formally known as the Iraq Study Group (ISG), released 79 recommendations last week for America's future strategy for victory in Iraq.
At the urging of Congress, the bipartisan ISG, led by co-chairs James A. Baker, III, former secretary of state, and Lee H. Hamilton, former congressman and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, conducted an assessment of the situation in Iraq, its impact on the surrounding region, and consequences for U.S. interests.
The ISG is comprised of ten members – five Democrats and five Republicans. During August and September the group spent four days in Iraq to gain a firsthand account of the situation. The group met nine times and consulted with 136 people by mid-September and 171 people as it prepared its final report.
The ISG was tasked with examining four areas: the strategic environment in and around Iraq; the security of Iraq and key challenges to enhancing security within the country; political developments within Iraq following the elections and formation of the new government; and the economy and reconstruction.
There certainly are no easy answers, but the set of recommendations put forth by the ISG will serve as a useful roadmap as we go forward.
At first glance, it is clear that one area where the group is in complete agreement with many of us in Congress who have been to Iraq in recent months is that the Iraqi government must do more to protect and provide for its citizens.
To do this, the ISG calls on the Iraqi government to increase the strength and effectiveness of Iraqi military and police forces. The United States has spent billions of dollars to train and equip Iraqi Army battalions.
More than 400 American military transition teams – consisting of 10 to 15 personnel each – are working with individual Iraqi Security Force units in the Defense and Interior Ministries to provide training in communications, logistics, fire support, and other military enablers.
While this process is underway, the number of U.S. military personnel would increase, but once the Iraq government is capable of protecting itself, American troops will be able to start coming home.
The ISG also rejects both an immediate withdrawal and a timetable for withdrawal. If we leave prematurely, we leave Iraq in the hands of our worst enemies. These groups would be left with a sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists-in the heart of the Middle East-with vast oil resources at their disposal to fund their terrorist ambitions.
One recommendation in which I disagree with the commission is to invite Iran and Syria to play a greater role in Iraq. As Senator Joe Lieberman noted, "Asking Iran and Syria to help us succeed in Iraq is like your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire. These people are flaming the fire."
Both countries have a long history of supporting terrorism, and I don't believe either can be trusted to assist in stabilizing a democratic Iraq. A democratic, free Iraq is in direct opposition to the oppressive regimes of Iran and Syria.
Besides this recommendation, much of the report submitted by the ISG is consistent with the goals and objectives we have had since the war began.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.