Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"New," "Progressive" Obama Opens up Atlantic Coast to Offshore Drilling

Monday, the Obama administration announced its plans to put millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. These lands would be designated "Wilderness," the highest level of protection for public lands which includes a ban on mining, drilling, roads, vehicles and permanent structures.

However, no sooner that he curtailed drilling in one place, he threw the doors wide open elsewhere:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, according to a person briefed on the plan. …
Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and is a blow to environmental groups. They argue that the move would put the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia at risk for an environmental disaster like the BP spill that struck the Gulf Coast in 2010, when millions of barrels of oil washed ashore after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.
It will not be the first time that the Obama White House has proposed offshore drilling in the Atlantic. In early 2010, before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, the administration proposed a five-year plan that would have allowed the federal government to sell drilling leases in the federal waters off Virginia. The administration abandoned that idea after the Gulf Coast spill in April.
Environmentalists, needless to say, are not pleased:
“Opening Atlantic waters to offshore drilling would take us in exactly the wrong direction,” said Bob Deans, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It would ignore the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the need to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change and the promise of a clean-energy future.”
“The BP blowout oiled a thousand miles of coastline, about the distance from Savannah to Boston,” Mr. Deans said. “Opening up part of the Atlantic to drilling could expose the entire Eastern Seaboard to the risks of a catastrophic blowout.”
Obama's strategy, as Coral Davenport (the NYT environment writer) notes, has always been to give the fossil fuel industry and environmentalists each a "win."  However, when the fossil fuel industry keeps winning, we and the planet lose. 

If Obama is to take the challenge of mitigating climate change seriously at all, he needs to move past a "drill, baby, drill" mindset that locks in fossil fuel extraction for years into the future.

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