Michael A. Mariant/AP
An offshore oil platform is seen in the
distance from a beach in Santa Barbara,

Obama Delays Offshore Drilling Plan for Now

February 11, 2009 12:33 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
In another reversal of Bush-era policies, President Obama has decided to put a hold on additional offshore drilling while officials reassess the energy situation on the coasts.

A Hold on Additional Drilling

A possible increase in offshore drilling on U.S. coastlines will have to wait. According to MSNBC.com, the Obama administration has “set aside” a draft plan from the Bush administration that would have permitted more drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said new officials wanted more time to review future energy plans, and he ordered members of the Interior Department to assemble a report on the energy potential of the Outer Continental Shelf—alternative possibilities like wind and wave power included. Salazar was quoted as saying the Bush administration “had torpedoed” offshore renewable energy alternatives to support oil and natural gas before.

For some areas where President Bush would have allowed more drilling, data on the amount of energy that could have been extracted was slim, and 20 to 30 years old in some cases.

The public comment period on offshore drilling has been lengthened by six months, Salazar noted, to allow more time for input on the matter. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that public meetings will be held in Alaska, on the West Coast, the East Coast and near the Gulf Coast so public officials and other groups can voice their opinions.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said, “This unnecessary delay will hold America back, at the precise moment when we need to move forward the most.”

Republicans had also suggested that opening up drilling would help create more jobs and give the government $1.7 trillion in oil and gas royalties.

Environmentalists and other officials, however, suggested that the time was right to round out the country’s energy policies to include renewable alternatives to the energy independence plan.

Key Player: The offshore drilling debate

In 2008, President Bush announced the end of the executive ban on offshore oil drilling, but Congress still had to lift its legislative ban for drilling to commence. A federal moratorium was in place since 1981, instituted by Congress in response to Interior Secretary James Watt’s plan to expand offshore drilling. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush instituted an executive ban on drilling.

In 2008 Republicans popularized the slogan, “Drill, baby, drill.” And even some “green” communities like Santa Barbara, Calif., the site of a “devastating oil spill in 1969,” voted to open their waters to energy exploration, according to Time.

President Bush passed several “midnight regulations” before leaving office, many of which stood to benefit the energy sector. Democratic members of Congress insisted that they would work to reverse the rulings.

Those in favor of increasing offshore drilling have argued that the plan would boost oil production and help control gas prices. Opponents, however, say the benefits would be years down the road, if they came at all. Environmental threats are not worth the risks either, they contend.

Reference: Drilling


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