Allowing energy exploration and production offshore, now currently banned, could make an impact on the U.S. economy of more than $8 trillion over the next 30 years to the Gross Domestic Product and support 1.2 million jobs annually over its years of development, the American Energy Alliance said in a study Monday.

Exploration and production in areas of the Outer Continental Shelf that have been banned for exploration over a long period of time could also generate $1.6 trillion in Federal tax revenues and $600 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to the study. The study states initial investments would last seven years with production continuing for up to 30 years.

More than 85 billion barrels of recoverable oil and over 440 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are located off U.S. shores, according to the AEM. The industry is seeking for the U.S. Congress to lift the moratoria permanently.

We are hopeful that these figures will have an impact [on the Congressional decision]. We haven't seen that impact yet but it is a message that we will continue to get out, said Joel Noyes, Director of Government relations and industry affairs of the Independent Petroleum Association of America which agrees with the results of the study.

The congressional Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing tomorrow with states' representatives and Wednesday with industries' representatives in Washington to discuss about offshore drilling. Appearances before Congress on Wednesday include presidents of Shell, BP America, Exxon Mobil and Chevron North America as well as the chairman and chief executive of Devon Energy.

If the industry is given the green light for exploration or production, companies could start to pursue these opportunities the following year, Noyes said.

These companies have to be very cautious as they plan, he warned, saying that they are also suffering from the economic downturn.

Unlike the $790-billion stimulus package lawmakers just passed, increased offshore activity would fuel our economy without squandering taxpayer funds, said AEA President Thomas J. Pyle in a statement on the Alliance's website.

A longstanding moratorium on offshore drilling expired last year. The U.S. Interior Department issued a draft five-year energy exploration leasing plan during the last months of the President Bush administration. However the plan was put on hold in February by the new Interior Sec. Ken Salazar for 240 days so that revisions could be made.

Salazar has said the members of the Bush administration were engaged in foot- dragging when it comes to offshore renewable resources even as they speed up plans for drilling.

We need to be honest about our energy future. A drill-only approach onshore and offshore is not enough, he said, according to Bloomberg.