What cost have we paid for the president’s permitorium on new lease auctions (only just ended this summer) and drilling permit approvals which are still well below the levels we need? Unlike many rhetorical questions, this is one which we will eventually learn the answer to. A piece of the puzzle fell into place this week when Chevron, finally getting back to work after long delays, announced the discovery of another, potentially significant US energy deposit in the gulf.

SAN RAMON, Calif., Sept. 6, 2011 – Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) today announced a new oil discovery at the Moccasin prospect in the deepwater U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The Keathley Canyon Block 736 Well No. 1 encountered more than 380 feet of net pay in the Lower Tertiary Wilcox Sands. The well is located approximately 216 miles off the Louisiana coast in 6,759 feet of water and was drilled to a depth of 31,545 feet.

“The Moccasin discovery underscores the importance of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico as a source of domestic energy for the United States and as a focus area for Chevron’s worldwide exploration portfolio,” said George Kirkland, vice chairman, Chevron Corporation. “Moccasin is an important addition to our queue of high-quality opportunities around the globe.”

Lest you think this is a sign that things are now back to business as usual, this was not a “new permit” striking black gold. Chevron started work on this site in March 2010 with a valid, normal permit. Work was stopped only three months later when the permitorium went into effect, though no problems had been encountered on the Moccasin site. They were unable to get their permit renewed until March of this year when existing – not new – permits began to be reactivated at a snail’s pace.

This is good news for our domestic energy prospects, but it leaves us to wonder… would we already be obtaining energy resources today, reducing our dependency on foreign sources, had these delays not been encountered while the middle east erupted in turmoil? How much closer to a state of relative energy independence might we be today without these delays? What other resources are waiting to be tapped which we might have already found?

As I said. We’ll know those answers eventually… just much later than we would have with a sane, productive domestic energy policy in place for the last two years.