Obama to reverse position on offshore drilling

The Obama administration will reverse its policy on offshore drilling announced last March and bar further new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.  The new ban will last seven years, and that will deliver a body blow to American exploration and energy independence:

The Obama administration won’t allow any new oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least the next seven years because of the BP oil spill, a senior administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The area that includes the waters off Florida’s coast had been considered for drilling as part of the management plan for the OuterContinental Shelf. Just a month before the April spill, the Obama administration had announced plans to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf.

“In light of the BP spill, we’ve learned a lot and understand the need to elevate the safety and environmental standards,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn’t been announced yet. “We took a second look at the announced plan and modified it to remove the Eastern Gulf ofMexico from leasing consideration.”

The Washington Post reports that the moratorium will apply to the OCS in all other states as well:

Obama administration officials will announce Wednesday afternoon they will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan, according to sources briefed on the plan, reversing two key policy changes President Obama announced in late March.

The original position was positioned by the White House as a centrist effort to explore and produce American resources as well as pursue alternative energy resources through Porkulus and the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House.   At the time, I wrote that economic pressure on the Obama administration probably had a lot to do with that decision as well:

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.

The official explanation will be that the Gulf oil spill requires a lot more reform in regulatory practices, which we certainly discovered in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.  The White House began backpedaling on this policy almost immediately after the disaster in April, even before Obama bothered to spend more time addressing the issue than the Arizona immigration-enforcement law.  The complete reversal was almost inevitable, and delaying it until after the midterms even more so.

That doesn’t make the new policy any less inane.  America needs to develop its own energy resources regardless of the state of the MMS.  That’s why it’s incumbent on Obama to make those reforms as quickly as possible.  Why should it take seven years to reform MMS and to fix the regulatory apparatus on offshore drilling, especially after the demonstration of incompetence and impotence shown in the BP disaster?   For that matter, why penalize those companies who are performing well in offshore drilling for the mistakes made by BP and MMS?

This is an admission of further impotence, and not just in reforming a regulatory structure that Obama wants to expand across the entire economy.  It’s a gesture of impotence on Obama’s part in defending any centrist moves to challenges from his hard-Left base, to which he’s caving with this new seven-year moratorium.  When gasoline starts hitting $4 a gallon again, Obama will have much more criticism to handle as a result of this policy reversal.