Obama to expand off-shore oil drilling

posted at 11:36 am on March 31, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

If Barack Obama thought the Left was angry over his expansion of the war in Afghanistan, wait until he sees their reaction to his new energy policy.  The President has decided to expand America’s oil and gas drilling on the coastlines, with new leases for Virginia coming as soon as two years from now, according to the Washington Post.  That will be good news for American energy production, consumers, and for job seekers — which makes it bad news for Obama’s friends in the enviromental movement:

The Obama administration will approve significant oil and gas exploration off America’s coasts, including a possible sale two years from now of leases off Virginia’s coast, administration officials said Wednesday.

The move, which President Obama will announce Wednesday morning with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Andrews Air Force Base, ends a long-standing moratorium on oil and gas drilling along much of the East Coast, from Delaware to central Florida.

The new strategy, an administration official said, calls for also developing oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, more than 125 miles from Florida’s coast; and in large areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska, after the government conducts detailed studies. …

The administration’s decision to open up large swaths of the Outer Continental Shelf, even as it keeps some key preserves off-limits, is likely to anger environmentalists and several key lawmakers who had pressed Obama to keep the moratorium in place. But oil and gas companies are sure to welcome the proposal.

The timing seems a little odd, although certainly welcome.  Obama has a cap-and-trade proposal languishing in the Senate that would disincentivize precisely this kind of exploration and production.  Not only would that release more carbon, but the drilling and production would also push against the thrust of his global-warming policies.

Obama could see this concession to conservative and industry pressure as a means to have them relax their opposition to cap-and-trade.  However, that bill will have devastating effects on the energy sector, and trading off for domestic resources isn’t going to be a good deal for them in any case.  The effort to produce that raw material will cost billions, and if Obama and Congress impose a cap-and-trade system on energy production, it will be a money loser for them in the long run.  In fact, cap-and-trade is specifically designed to make carbon-based energy production a red-ink affair in order to force industry towards so-called “green” energy alternatives, even if those alternatives can’t possibly keep up with our energy needs.

A trade-off seems unlikely.  It seems much more likely that Obama has realized that without cheap and plentiful energy, the American economy is not going to get off the floor and start expanding.  That would explain his recent push for nuclear power stations, a welcome change in attitude, as well.  Freeing up the coastlines for oil and gas production will add close to a million jobs, most of them high-paying union positions, in the first couple of years of expansion, which will be appealing to an administration that has proven itself inept at job creation.

However, Obama will find himself the target of unbelievable ire from the enviro-Left after making this decision.  He just spoke at Copenhagen about the need to curtail this very kind of energy use, and now he’s not only backing oil drilling but ending decades of official federal hostility to off-shore drilling.  Expect the backlash to be severe, and expect that to play into the midterms as well.


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