The National Oil Spill Commission’s long-awaited report on the Deepwater Horizon arrived this week, offering an odd assortment of findings and recommendations that reach far beyond last year’s tragedy in the Gulf, while failing to present clear recommendations for moving forward in a region that is vital to our national energy and economic security.

One newspaper actually used the word puzzling to describe the report, for the way it suggests that the industry’s problems are systemic without providing any supporting evidence. And, as CEA President David Holt noted, such sweeping statements can cause real damage. The report questions the future of drilling operations in Alaska, notwithstanding the stellar safety record in that region.

“This commission had an opportunity, and some might even say a mandate, to move the current energy debate past politics and toward a reasonable consensus,” on safe offshore drilling operations going forward, Holt told a group of policymakers in Washington.

Instead, the political tone of the report often reads like a chapter out of an anti-drilling diatribe. It could threaten to choke off economic activity in the Gulf, as well as in key U.S. oil-producing regions far from the Gulf.   More specifically, CEA is concerned about the unsupported recommendations that appear to call for an open-ended delay to development of Alaska’s abundant offshore resources.  As we saw last week when the Trans-Alaska Pipeline shutdown raised international oil prices by $4/barrel, shutting down Alaska’s oil & natural gas development impacts consumers everywhere!

CEA has always supported a thorough investigation of the events surrounding last year’s tragic accident in the Macondo Prospect oil field, to be followed up by a constructive set of recommendations for moving forward with safe exploration and drilling in the Gulf. That was our position last April and it remains our position today. We don’t believe that the Deepwater Horizon tragedy should be forgotten and we maintain that oil rig safety should be non-negotiable. But we also know that we all must move beyond political rhetoric before we can agree on an effective national energy strategy.

It is also very apparent to anyone paying attention that the oil & natural gas industry has thoughtfully and comprehensively responded to the tragedy by working closely with federal officials to determine ways to improve operations, safety and environmental protection.  A lot of lessons and been learned, and, more importantly, a lot of improvements have already been implemented.

Clearly, our need for a strong and steady supply of domestic energy is not going to go away. Today, the country is challenged not just to produce more of the energy it uses but to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work. And as we noted last week, our very fragile economic recovery is being threatened by high and rising oil prices that are harder to control when so much of that oil is imported.

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) has also highlighted some of the more perplexing parts of the Oil Spill Commission’s report, particularly its suggestion that problems are systemic throughout the industry.

“Over 43,000 wells have been drilled in the Gulf of Mexico without a Macondo-like accident,” notes NOIA, a CEA affiliate. “Over 14,000 wells have been drilled in the deepwater Gulf without a Macondo-like accident. This is not because the industry has been lucky. Nor does this disaster-free record show a culture of complacency. (Last year’s) accident cannot be taken lightly, but it should not be used as a dam to halt energy security and reliability.”