Madam Speaker, when the ladies of the gulf, Katrina and Rita, came barreling through recently, we learned many lessons. Unfortunately, in the aftermath we learned that the gulf coast oil and natural gas production can be easily disrupted to the detriment of the Americans. Although there were around 2,900 platforms pelted in the path of the ladies of the gulf, very little environmental impact resulted. In the wake of these hurricanes, the need for American petroleum and natural gas and dependence on ourselves has become evident.

The United States must be more self-sufficient when it comes to energy.

The United States imports 60 percent of its crude oil from foreign countries. In doing so, we are subject to the illegal price fixing cartel known as OPEC. The Gulf of Mexico is responsible for one-third of the domestic oil production and 22 percent of the domestic natural gas production. We learned from Katrina and Rita, oil and natural gas production can be disrupted to the detriment of consumers throughout the United States because production is too concentrated in the gulf coast region.

To correct these problems, I have introduced H.R. 3811. This legislation would allow for safe oil and natural gas exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf. This bill would do away with all appropriation moratoriums and executive orders that limit leasing activities, while maintaining environmental safeguards.

It is imperative that the United States begin drilling in other parts outside of the gulf. Madam Speaker, as my colleagues can see from this map, there is a wide range of areas where we can drill. Right now, the United States drills right here off my home State of Texas and Louisiana; yet, there is crude oil still in the Gulf of Mexico, on the east coast and, yes, Madam Speaker, even off the sacred coast of California. It is imperative that we think and consider drilling in these areas.

Since the 1980s, Congress has been placing appropriations moratoriums on drilling on all of these red areas that are outlined on this map. They are doing so by withholding leases. It started in California, and now about 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf is off limits to energy developments. All these people on these coastal States want cheap gasoline, they want natural gas, but they say do not drill in our neighborhood.

Madam Speaker, this is hypocritical. This does not make sense. It violates common sense. In this Outer Continental Shelf, there are about 300 cubic feet of natural gas and more than 50 billion barrels of oil yet to be discovered, enough to replace current imports from the Persian Gulf for 60 years and produce sufficient natural gas to heat 75 million homes for 60 years.

Madam Speaker, it would seem to me that opening up these areas would be the obvious choice. We are the only major industrial power in the world that has this silly rule about not drilling off our own shores. They drill in the North Sea, and around the world, and yet, they do so safely.

My bill would allow the Department of the Interior's Mineral and Mining Service to begin processing these leases. This would bring in additional lease revenue to Americans. Right now, Americans are receiving in this blue area $7.5 billion a year in lease revenue. Imagine what we could get from these red areas if we allowed drilling in these areas.

It is important that we use some common sense. Americans worry about skyrocketing energy prices and want solutions. The decision on where to drill is going to have to be made and made soon. This is a price issue, but it is also a national security issue.

Hurricane season is not over and it will be back next year. It is inevitable that more storms will come down hurricane alley right here in the gulf, and they are going to stop in Louisiana or Texas. With all the rigs in the same place, we are destined to repeat history. Although most of the rigs survived Hurricanes Rita and Katrina with minimal damage, there will be more storms, wind and disasters.

Those that say no to offshore drilling have no solutions to the energy problem. We can drill offshore safely, environmentally correct, when you get over the fear factor proposed by the anti-drilling people, and take control of our own energy needs. Otherwise, Madam Speaker, we will freeze in the dark. That is just the way it is.