Unable to face criticisms that he has “blocked American-made energy” production in the past, President Obama announced that he will take steps to accelerate oil and gas drilling on public lands in Alaska and on the East Coast.
The President made the annoucement Saturday during his weekly radio address at a time when most Americans are facing astronomical prices at the gas pump.
The decision marks a significant reversal of the administration’s current policy, which protects the delicate arctic ecosystems in Alaska from unsafe offshore drilling and puts the entire Atlantic seaboard off limits to drilling until at least 2018.
The president said the administration will begin to hold annual auctions for oil and gas leases in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, a 23-million-acre tract on the North Slope of Alaska (NYT).
Despite Republican claims that current restrictions on offshore drilling were to blame for high fuel prices and denied Americans lucrative jobs, the policies proposed would not have an immediate effect on supply or prices, nor would they quickly open any new areas to drilling.
The President also announced that the government will provide incentives for oil companies to more quickly exploit leases they already hold.
This flies in the face of legislation currently under review in the Senate that would finally put an end to the massive subsidies awarded to the oil and gas industries in a time when they are making record profits.
In response to the announcement, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, said the President’s new policy should “pave the way for legislation, like the bills the House passed in the past two weeks, to reduce the damage from the restrictions he imposed in the past.”
Although the President claims that he supports only “environmentally-safe” drilling, it’s been shown time and time again that any acceleration in the leasing process only encourages oil and gas companies to cut corners.
In light of the former Minerals Management Service’s past record of taking favors from industry lobbyists and failing to execute thorough environmental impact assessments, the chances of more oil spills increases dramatically — only this time they’ll be in freezing waters where we don’t know how to clean them up.
Although it breaks my heart to see Mr. Obama ‘play Switzerland’ in the face of polarizing issues like energy policy; break promises of more robust environmental policy that convinced so many to vote for him in the first place; and refuse to make good on claims that he supports investment in clean energy ecomony, there is a silver lining…
If we just hurry up and drill, we’ll get to the end of oil (there’s only a finite amount you know) even quicker. The faster it’s gone, the faster we’ll be able to identify our petroleum addiction for what it is — a destructive, all consuming dependency. Maybe when it’s gone, we’ll finally realize what we’ve known for years — renewable energy is the only way to the future.
But by then it may be too late, and we’ll long for the days when $5 gas was our most pressing problem.
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