President Obama is proposing a major expansion of offshore oil drilling around the nation, as the LA Times reports, with the Pacific Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California excluded from the new drilling:
President Obama will announce new plans to drill for oil and natural gas off America’s coasts Wednesday but will rule out drilling off California, Oregon and Washington state through 2017, administration officials say.
Obama’s plans will include opening new areas of coastal Virginia and other parts of the mid-Atlantic region, Alaska and the eastern Gulf of Mexico for drilling. But officials say the president will block drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, where the George W. Bush administration’s drilling plans in 2007 angered environmentalists.
One obvious question that comes to mind is “why?” Offshore oil drilling is no solution to our country’s energy problems, as it would provide only a tiny fraction of the overall national demand for oil at a major environmental cost. Some reports have claimed that Obama is embracing this as part of a deal on the long-stalled climate bill, but Calitics alum David Dayen questions whether that would be sensible:
I see it more like showing your cards before the end of the hand. Why would you let Republicans know about a pre-compromised offshore drilling regime, so that they can push for even more? This won’t garner one Republican vote any more than compromising the health care bill garnered any Republican votes. If this was the result of a negotiation, fine, but this comes BEFORE the negotiation.
RL Miller shares her thoughts at Daily Kos, pointing out that the federal government won’t see much in the way of new revenue and also questioning whether this will help with a climate bill that has already been stripped of the parts that would actually help the climate. She equates this policy to “fucking for virginity” which seems both an apt and descriptive way of putting it.
So what does this mean for us in California? It will likely increase pressure to open our coasts to drilling. If drilling supporters can point to new rigs off the coasts of the Southeast or Alaska and say that they haven’t (yet) caused any noticeable environmental damage, that will help wedge open the California coast to drilling.
Even if the CA coastal ban stays in place, John Myers of KQED’s Capital Notes argues this might help the Tranquillon Ridge project because it could more credibly claim to have a valid shutdown plan.
In any case, Obama’s embrace of drilling is a sad and depressing shift away from sensible policies to reduce carbon emissions and address global warming. While the health care reform bill was imperfect, it was at least a step in the right direction. The president’s climate and energy policies, however, are big steps in the wrong direction.