Over the weekend, the White House announced it was seeking input from the oil and gas industry about exploring new drilling off the south-central Alaskan coast. Essentially, the administration wants to know if oil and gas companies have any interest in leasing rights to drill in the area. The Interior Department’s announcement came as the Obama administration has been facing Republican criticism over the cost of gas.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement to reporters:
“Today’s announcement is part of our commitment to increasing safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America.
“We will continue to support efforts to safely expand offshore oil and gas exploration, using the best science to assess where recoverable resources lie and providing industry with abundant opportunity to lease and develop areas that contain those resources.”
The administration has been careful to stress that just because they’re currently exploring the idea doesn’t mean they’ll end up leasing rights to drill. In fact, the White House has had to cancel previous planned sales of drilling leases in the area because of a lack of industry interest, so this may be more of a calculated political move in advance of the November election than anything else.
Regardless, the move is troubling to anyone concerned about the expansion of the offshore drilling industry – and particularly upsetting to environmentalists in light of Obama’s previous statements that he would not support new exploration of offshore drilling until 2017. As the Gulf Oil Spill showed us, ecological disaster is just accident away. I guess this goes to show that it’s easy to break promises and gloss over past mishaps in an election year.