Concerning your editorial, you are right that Americans should recognize that the euphoria surrounding declining oil prices is only temporary, and that we still remain dangerously dependent on oil imports. According to the Office of Technology Assessments, by 1990 there will be oil import rates that could reach the 1977 historic high of 9.3 million imported barrels per day.
In order to keep our country free from the vulnerability of potential supply interruptions, the oil industry needs more incentives to develop such technologies as deepwater drilling and Arctic drilling. The areas of highest oil potential lies in the deepwater areas adjacent to Alaska and the lower 48 states--an area consisting of 1.9 billion acres of offshore public land owned by the United States.
The secretary of the Interior has power under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (amended in 1978) to lease larger tracts to bidders, making it easier for oil companies--and adding more incentive--to enter leases. Also, the secretary should make available more 10-year leases rather than the 5-year leases, which makes it more worthwhile for oil firms to lay out the exploration capital necessary to drill.
The potentially oil-rich areas of the Arctic region are also areas where our country's future domestic oil may come from. But the harsh environment poses tremendous financial risks to oil companies, which must operate in severe conditions. In order to encourage the kind of expensive technology that needs to be built in order to extract oil from these deepwater and Arctic regions, greater incentives need to be implemented on a large scale.
Another suggestion would be to eliminate the joint bidding ban, which in fact has proven itself to be anti-competitive. The joint bidding ban has prevented oil companies from linking together for joint ventures in deepwater areas, where extra capital needs to be infused to permit workers to withstand water currents, sea-floor instability, mud slides and hurricane-force winds.
It also remains necessary to recognize and honor the sovereign interests of the states that adjoin deepwater areas, but environmental issues should not be magnified out of proportion, and should not be allowed to eclipse the need to reduce the hazards of U.S. dependency on imported oil.
JOHN ALAN COHAN