President Barack Obama announced plans on Wednesday for an expansion of U.S. offshore oil and gas drilling in an effort to win Republican support for new proposals to fight climate change.
Shaking up years of energy policy and his own environmental backers, Obama threw open a huge swath of East Coast waters and other protected areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska to drilling, widening the politically explosive hunt for more homegrown oil and gas.
Obama's move allows drilling from Delaware to central Florida, plus the northern waters of Alaska, and exploration could begin 50 miles off the coast of Virginia by 2012. He also wants Congress to lift a drilling ban in the oil-rich eastern Gulf of Mexico, 125 miles from Florida beaches.
Still off limits: the entire Pacific seaboard. And in a nod to conservation, Obama canceled oil exploration in Alaska's Bristol Bay, deeming the area a national treasure, while "studying and protecting sensitive areas in the Arctic."
Expanded offshore drilling could put the US coastal states at risk from oil spills, threatening fisheries, tourism.
It's clear that some interests are aggressively pursuing an effort to open the nation's coasts and oceans for unfettered access to oil and gas drilling.
The Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy, has reported that oil and gas drilling on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico wouldn't have a significant impact on U.S. oil and natural gas prices until 2030.
The best way to lower oil prices for supporters of environmental protection is through energy efficiency and conservation. The vast majority of the world's climate scientists agree that sharp reductions of heat-trapping gases will be needed globally to improve the odds of avoiding dangerous climate shifts and this decision will clearly not help in terms of climate bill.