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(Total, foreign energy share story, updated for Gulf of Mexico comment, poll question)



) -- Shares of


(TOT) - Get Total SA Report

were leading a down day for foreign energy stocks on Friday, with shares of the foreign integrated oil and gas company down by close to 3% and surpassed its average daily trading volume in the first hour of the market open. Trading in Total shares reached double its average daily volume by the early afternoon.

On Thursday, the CEO of Total said in an interview with the

Wall Street Journal

that Gulf of Mexico drilling was looking at cost increases of 20% as a result of the post-BP oil spill regulation and permitting requirements. The higher costs were related to the longer delays for oil companies in getting wells to production due to new permitting requirements. Oil companies are paying a per day rate in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for wells regardless of whether all the permits have been approved and drilling can commence.

On Thursday, shares of Total had been downgraded by Collins Stewart from a buy to hold, with analysts citing currency headwinds for the foreign oil company.

Italian oil and gas company


(E) - Get Eni SpA Report

and Spanish oil and gas company


TheStreet Recommends

( REP) also had losses of 2% on Friday to lead the energy sector lower. Repsol was already at its daily trading volume within the first hour of the market open. Eni had been downgrade alongside Total by Collins Stewart on Thursday.

The debate over the Obama administration's drilling plan and the new era of drilling regulation in the Gulf of Mexico took new turns this week with the White House releasing a report stating that job losses predicted by the oil and gas industry as a result of the federal drilling ban didn't occur. At an energy industry conference on Thursday, the major oil companies talked at length about the new era of drilling in the Gulf, evincing serious concerns about the pace of recovery in drilling operations.

>>Obama: Stop Crying Over Undrilled Oil

The view wasn't all "Gulf half empty" from major oil executives, though, with

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report


Anadarko Petroleum

(APC) - Get Anadarko Petroleum Corporation Report

management focusing comments on the fact that they are ready to get back to drilling in the Gulf the moment the ban is lifted.

The court wrangling over the Obama drilling ban isn't going away either. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar was ordered by a court this week to hand over documents to oil companies that have challenged the ban, after a court agreed that the government issued the second drilling ban - after a court had overturned the first ban - without considering new evidence.

The latest claims from the White House about the limited impact of the drilling ban come just as BP's relief well has intercepted the Macondo well. Within days, the Macondo well should be sealed for good. Yet the counter arguments in court and at industry conferences about the impact on Gulf of Mexico drilling to be felt for years to come isn't an issue soon to be sealed.

Indeed, it raises the question,

Will Gulf of Mexico drilling operations get back to normal sooner or later?

Take our poll below to see what



--Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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