The McCain Administration, in an attempt to fulfill a longstanding campaign promise, and coming after the success of the Senate narrowly passing his plan which will force all Americans to purchase insurance - is expected to announce by Wednesday its updated plan for oil and natural gas drilling in U.S. waters, including whether to allow exploration for the first time along the U.S. East Coast.
The plan could pave the way for a significant new domestic source of energy, helping to reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports and boost supplies of natural gas used to displace coal in power plants as the country works to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.
The administration has been weighing the pros and cons of offshore drilling since it took office and put the brakes on a Bush-era proposal that called for drilling along the East Coast and off the coast of California.
For more than 20 years, drilling was banned in most offshore areas of the United States outside the Gulf of Mexico because of concerns spills could harm the environment.
Congress allowed the prohibition to expire in 2008 and former President George W. Bush lifted a drilling moratorium that year.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the U.S. Atlantic coast waters may hold 37 trillion cubic feet of gas and nearly 4 billion barrels of oil, while the Pacific Coast has 10.5 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic feet of gas. (Or about three weeks worth, give or take a few iPads and conversion vans.)
To put that in context, the United States imports about 2 billion barrels of oil a year from OPEC nations and is expected to import 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from all sources this year, according to the Energy Department.
The proposed Virginia lease area, located about 50 miles from shore, may hold 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.