Obama Opening Pieces of US Coastline to Offshore Drilling

The New York Times has
the story

The Obama administration is proposing to
open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern
Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas
drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

The proposal - a compromise that will please oil companies and
domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states
and many environmental organizations - would end a longstanding
moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip
of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres
of ocean.

Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain
closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from
Mexico to the Canadian border.

The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska
would be protected and no drilling would be allowed under the plan,
officials said. But large tracts in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in
the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska - nearly 130 million acres - would be
eligible for exploration and drilling after extensive studies.

Obama himself will make this announcement today, in just a couple

This is puzzling on a number of levels.

  • The LA Times refers
    to this as a bargaining chip in the climate bill debate, but I see
    it more like showing your cards before the end of the hand. Why would
    you let Republicans know about a pre-compromised offshore drilling
    regime, so that they can push for even more? This won't garner one
    Republican vote any more than compromising the health care bill garnered
    any Republican votes. If this was the result of a negotiation, fine,
    but this comes BEFORE the negotiation.
  • This comes right at a time when core supporters were starting to
    get energized about the midterm elections and about the President's
    performance. There is nobody in the Democratic base who is particularly
    excited about "Drill Baby Drill." It's true that the President
    actually noted support for it on the campaign trail, at the height of
    the drilling conversation, but the timing couldn't be worse for this
    action. It's especially galling that students
    have the most to lose
    from this plan, a day after Obama signed a
    groundbreaking piece of legislation specifically aiding students.
  • Nobody has been talking about this for close to two years.
    Conservatives had moved on to other topics, and now this will come
    rushing back. And instead of crediting the President for basically
    handing them one of their issues, they'll criticize him for exempting
    the West Coast and the Northeast.

Either Obama thinks the climate bill is dead and he's handing out a
couple of the goodies he already promised, or his team has assessed that
these tracts won't
be cost-effective enough
for oil companies to actually do the
drilling, so it's a low-cost hedge toward moderation. We know that oil
companies have thousands of reserve contracts for on-shore drilling
sites in the US that they haven't and probably will not ever explore.
They end up on company profiles as "future reserve sites" to prove the
stability of their operations to investors. In the end, this may end up
being a big giveaway to oil company balance sheets, without the
environmental hazards.

I'll close with this
statement from Jonathan Hiskes

The substances at issue here-oil and
natural gas-will eventually be burned, releasing heat-trapping
pollutants that cause global warming. If that continues unchecked, it
could be the most destructive and unjust phenomena of the coming
century. There's no mention of any of this in the stories from major
news outlets. Just sayin'.

UPDATE: One other thing. The leaks I've heard about
offshore drilling in the climate bill emphasized local control, as in
"you can drill if your state wants it." Maybe that's a part of this
announcement. We'll have to see.

UPDATE II: Here's a shock, John
Boehner is upset
that Obama didn't open up the entire American
coastline. Amazingly, compromising with Republicans doesn't yield
Republican support!

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