Color me shocked. (Sarcasm intended.) The long awaited plans for U.S. offshore oil leases are coming out shortly and you’ll never guess what happened. After years of working toward expanded development in the Atlantic shelf, the White House has reportedly yanked the plans entirely and will cancel all plans for such leases. (New York Times)
The Obama administration is expected to withdraw its plan to permit oil and gas drilling off the southeast Atlantic coast, yielding to an outpouring of opposition from coastal communities from Virginia to Georgia but dashing the hopes and expectations of many of those states’ top leaders.
The announcement by the Interior Department, which is seen as surprising, could come as soon as Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the decision who was not authorized to speak on the record because the plan had not been publicly disclosed.
The decision represents a reversal of President Obama’s previous offshore drilling plans, and comes as he is trying to build an ambitious environmental legacy. It could also inject the issue into the 2016 presidential campaigns, as Republican candidates vow to expand drilling.
Widespread opposition? The New York Times and other eco-warrior bastions have been beating this already discredited dead horse for a while now to little effect. The Consumer Energy Alliance ran the numbers last month and found that the “widespread opposition” consisted of roughly 7.2% of the population in the affected states. Their president, David Holt, issued the following response:
“We are deeply disappointed by reports that the Interior Department is set to exclude the Atlantic from the 2017-22 Five Year Plan and completely ignore the strong support for offshore development expressed by the Governors, legislators, stakeholders and public from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
“By removing the entire proposed Atlantic leasing area, the administration has failed to present a serious offshore plan that will help meet our energy needs over the coming decades.
“The exclusion also guarantees that domestic energy policy will be a major issue in the presidential election, and underscores the critical need for the nominees of both parties to bring forward thoughtful, intellectually serious energy policies that will secure the nation’s long-term energy, economic, and national security.
“The domestic energy revolution has provided a major boost to the American economy and consumer pocketbooks, while fundamentally transforming the global geopolitical landscape to the benefit of U.S. national security. At the same time, thanks to continuing improvements in technology, practices, and oversight, the United States has demonstrated that offshore energy development and environmental stewardship can and do coexist.
“Today’s decision threatens to prematurely and unnecessarily halt this revolution. Thankfully, the next administration will soon have an opportunity to consider the long-term implications of today’s decision — and the public and state support that exists for offshore development — and reverse course toward a more responsible approach.”
Fortunately, Holt is far more polite than I’m inclined to be. This is a blatant bait and switch, designed to be part of Barack Obama’s legacy building project and another wing in his presidential library. He had been indicating for years that these leases would be approved and moving forward as part of the ongoing efforts to ensure America’s place as a global energy leader for decades to come. Now all of the investments in research and preparation which have gone into making sure such exploration could be done in a safe, environmentally sound and fiscally productive way are back on the shelf. (At least until we get a president with some sense of responsibility in office.)
This is a flat out betrayal of the people who rely on the energy industry for their jobs and their future, both directly and in the many support industries which fill up the supply chain in energy exploration and development. It’s also a reversal of the progress we’ve made in building global security for our allies as we relieve them of the problems associated with relying on Russia or Middle East suppliers. We’re seeing craven politicking at its worst on display here, but since Barack Obama doesn’t need to worry about winning any more elections I suppose he can pat himself on the back and head out the door with another ribbon from environmental groups.