Obama Opens Up Offshore Drilling: ‘Part of a Broader Strategy’
March 31, 2010
(ChattahBox)— President Obama has opened up our coastlines, some areas for the first time, to offshore drilling, extending from the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska. He is framing his decision, as a commonsense “part of a broader strategy” to reach his ultimate goal of achieving energy independence, while developing renewable cleaner sources of energy. But his pragmatic solution to our nation’s growing dependence on foreign oil, has outraged environmentalists, while drawing criticism from Sarah Palin’s right-wing “drill, baby drill” crowd, as not going far enough. Obama has excluded Alaska’s environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay, the Pacific Coast and the New Jersey coastline northward, from exploration for oil and gas. But at the same time, he is opening up 167 million new acres of ocean along the East Coast and about 130 million additional acres in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska.
Today, is either a very sad day for protector’s of our nation’s pristine coastlines, or a day of celebration for those who would rape our lands for a few barrels of oil or natural gas reserves. President Obama, believes he made the right decision for the good of our country, moving “beyond the tired debates between right and left.” But there are many Americans unhappy with his decision today.
President Obama made his offshore drilling announcement at Andrews Air Force Base, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at his side. Obama pledged to continue efforts to develop “production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.” And he announced plans to use more biofuels in military vehicles and a transition towards hybrid vehicles for the federal motor pool. Still, opening up pristine acres of our coastline to oil rigs, stings.
As a climate bill will soon make its way to the Senate for debate, Obama is perhaps, calculating that he can peel away a few Republican votes with his offshore drilling expansion, but there is certainly no guarantee he would be successful.
And although shocking, Obama’s decision should come as no surprise, since he has advocated a limited expansion of offshore drilling in the past. According to the NY Times, “Mr. Obama said several times during his presidential campaign that he supported expanded offshore drilling. He noted in his State of the Union address in January that weaning the country from imported oil would require “tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.”’
Obama’s statements stressed the fact that offshore drilling was a transition plan towards the ultimate goal of energy independence with clean energy sources:
“This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly,” the president said in prepared remarks in a speech on energy security. “But the bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we’re going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.”
“There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling, But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and long term. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake.”
Responding to Republican critics who propose opening up even greater expanses of our coastlines to drilling, Obama pointed out that drilling alone would not solve our energy problems:
“They’d deny the fact that with less than 2 percent of oil reserves, but more than 20 percent of world consumption, drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs,” he said, “and that for the sake of the planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.”
“Ultimately,” he concluded, “we need to move beyond the tired debates between right and left, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place. Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.“
But House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) criticized Obama for excluding some of our coastal waters to oil exploration. While at the same time, many environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers condemned Obama’s decision
Doug O’Malley, field director for Environment New Jersey, said “It makes no sense to threaten the east coast of America, including the Jersey Shore, with spills and other drilling disasters when we’re about to unleash the real solutions to oil dependence — cleaner cars, cleaner fuels and clean energy.”
Perhaps Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) had the best line of the day, while expressing his outrage of Obama’s expansion of offshore drilling: “Giving Big Oil more access to our nation’s waters is really a Kill, Baby, Kill policy: it threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars.”
Photo Credit: EPA/Kevin Dietsch