Thursday, April 01, 2010

Drill, Barack, drill: Obama to open up US East Coast for oil exploration.

This strikes me as bizarre.

Barack Obama earned the instant anger of environmentalists and many of his core liberal supporters yesterday by declaring his intention to open vast areas of off-shore waters for future drilling for oil and gas, reversing decades-old policies of leaving the waves to fish, gulls and holidaymakers.

The highly controversial plan, unveiled at Andrews Air Force Base, could, over time, give multinational energy companies access to the seabed along much of the eastern seaboard from Delaware all the way south to Florida, in eastern areas of the Gulf of Mexico and off the North Slope of Alaska.

While the President often derided Republicans during the 2008 campaign, including Sarah Palin, for holding out offshore drilling as an answer to escalating petrol prices with their rallying cry "Drill, baby, drill", he has been dropping hints for months of his intention to shift position.

The White House is hoping it may help garner Republican support in the push to get a climate change bill through the US Senate.
I can sort of get my head around it as a way of reducing the United States dependency on foreign oil, but to claim that it will help garner Republican support for a climate change bill strikes me as fantastical. Has he been paying any attention to who he is dealing with? Has he learnt nothing from the obstructionism over healthcare?

And why has he allowed this before the Republicans have agreed to give him the votes he needs to pass a climate change bill? He's giving away an awful lot in the hope of getting something back.

Matthew Yglesias — Drill, Baby, Drill:
I don’t understand this at all. Increased coastal drilling would be a small price to pay in exchange for actual congressional votes for an overall energy package that shifts us to a low-carbon economy over time. But any price is too high a price to pay in exchange for nothing at all. This isn’t the greatest environmental crime in human history, but it sure does seem like poor legislative strategy.
The reaction from environmentalists has been swift and condemnatory.

"Is this President Obama's clean energy plan or Palin's 'Drill, baby, drill' campaign?" asked Greenpeace executive director Phil Radford. "While China and Germany are winning the clean energy race, this act furthers America's addiction to oil. Expanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change."

Other groups reacted in a similar way. "Offshore drilling, especially as close as four miles from Florida's Atlantic beaches, tastes bad no matter which president from whatever party is serving it," said Mark Ferrulo of Environment Florida. "The President's support doesn't change the facts: expanded drilling won't lower gas prices and it represents a dirty and dangerous activity that risks catastrophic damage to our beloved beaches."

"This is stunning. Baffling," said the environmental website Grist. "Obama appears to be taking a major step toward siding with carbon-polluting industries in the battle to defend the energy status quo."

I could understand him doing this if he was doing it as a concession in order to get the Republicans to vote for a climate change bill, but he's doing it whilst getting nothing in return.

I vaguely remember that, during the campaign, he promised to look into the possibility of limited drilling:

"My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post during a tour of Florida."

If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage -- I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done," Obama told the newspaper.
But even he admitted scepticism that drilling would reduce gas prices.
"I remain skeptical that new offshore drilling will bring down gas prices in the short-term or significantly reduce our oil dependence in the long-term, though I do welcome the establishment of a process that will allow us to make future drilling decisions based on science and fact," he said.
So, we are left with him agreeing to this in the hope that it will encourage the Republicans to vote for a climate change bill. And he's giving it away before the Republicans give him anything in return.

I come back to my initial reaction when I first heard of this: Bizarre.


Boehner's instant reaction appears to show why Obama has been premature in offering something for nothing:
President Barack Obama's plan to allow expanded offshore oil and gas exploration won rebuke from the top House Republican on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed the president's plan as not going far enough in opening up U.S. waters for exploration.

Obama's decision "continues to defy the will of the American people," Boehner said in a statement, pointing to the president's decision to open Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters, while leaving Pacific and many Alaskan waters largely closed to exploration.
The Party of No are not going to change their tactics any time soon.


Former Bush official Dan Bartlett:
BARTLETT: This is a shrewd move by the White House this announcment they’re doing on energy and offshore oil drilling. … These are the things they need to demonstrate to their constituents that the Democratic Party does not just cater to the extreme aspects of their base … Now, do I think that this measure here will help grease the path for a climate change bill and bring Republicans on board? No. Republicans in the Congress have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats. So if this is more of a legislative manoeuvre in order to get a broader bill on climate change, unfortunately this is going to come up short.
Click here for full article.


Steel Phoenix said...

A few things:

A political party platform in America isn't the things they would like to see done, it's the the things they wish to do. If the Republican party allows this, they lose both moderate voters and kickbacks from energy companies. It really has nothing to do with ideology.

If Obama gave me a dollar, I'd be inspecting it closely for strings and fine print. He likes to leave us in suspense for a while though, so give it a bit and we will find out what the catch is.

I notice he mostly only opened up areas in red states. He isn't forcing this on any locales that don't, as a whole, want it (except for the rest of us who have to breathe the smog from its consumption).

Kel said...

Thanks for that, SP. I hadn't caught on to the fact that he is doing this mostly in red states.

And, like yourself, I will be waiting to see what the catch is. It strikes me as odd, but I'm sure there must be some kind of logic behind it.