Drilling For Oil. Say, What?

My first reaction to Obama's new proposal is: huh? The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastlin

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My first reaction to Obama's new proposal is: huh?

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.

How is this going to be helpful when negotiating with republicans (like they ever will) over a new energy policy? When Pat Buchanan says this is a wonderful idea and republicans should embrace it I spit out my morning coffee.

Marc Ambinder writes:

By announcing this BEFORE the Senate moves forward with its climate change legislation, which may or may not include cap-and-trade (probably not), the White House is betting that they'll force Republicans into a corner before the public debate begins, they'll give some cover to moderate Democratic members of Congress (who love it when Obama picks a fight with his own base), and they'll get some public cred with Americans who want to see the president moving quickly to find opportunities to create jobs. This isn't about votes in Congress per se, it's about perception, cover and framing the debate. It's also a move that tries to get ahead of rising gas prices.

President Obama sure likes to fire up his base in the wrong direction.

Josh Nelson has a round up of opinions and quotes from bloggers, jurnos and enviro groups like the Sierra Club.

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.

Duncan Black — Drill, Baby, Drill:

Who’d we elect again?

Natasha Chart — Morning No: Different Priorities:

How’s that hopey changey stuff working out? I don’t know about for me, but I think there are going to be some drill happy Alaskans who feel better about it.

Greg Sargent — The Morning Plum:

Just about every news org, reporting on the news that Obama will approve significant offshore drilling, used the headline: “Drill, baby drill.” Time to check you-know-who’s Facebook page…

Steve Benen — In Exchange for What?:

Obama has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy. What is he getting in return?

Kevin Drum — Obama Opens Up the Coast:

When it comes to energy, conservatives are crazy about two things: nuclear power and offshore drilling. Now Obama has agreed to both. But does he seriously think this will “help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation”? Wouldn’t he be better off holding this stuff in reserve and negotiating it away in return for actual support, not just hoped-for support? What am I missing here?

Blue America's Senator Jeff Markley writes:

Dem Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a respected voice in the Senate on green issues, sends over a statement hitting Obama’s decision to green-light offshore drilling, pronouncing himself “deeply concerned.”

“Today’s announcement doesn’t amount to a comprehensive strategy for dramatically reducing our dependence on foreign oil with transformative steps to lower our oil consumption,” Merkley says bluntly, adding:

While I’m glad that the Administration has decided not to open up the Oregon Coast to drilling, I am deeply concerned that opening up the Atlantic to offshore drilling will threaten coastal economies and does not represent a long-term solution to transform our energy economy.

It also doesn’t deal with the thousands of leases that oil companies already have, but aren’t drilling on. A “use it or lose it” policy should be the starting point for looking at increased domestic production.

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