Could Obama’s Offshore Drilling Decision Be Right?

Did President Obama have some political capital burning a hole in his pocket?  Is he justifiably optimistic about his digits following his signing the Affordable Care Act into law, completing an arms control deal with Russia, and wrapping up the week visiting the troops in Afghanistan?

How much will be spent on the Obama announcement of expanded oil drilling off American shores?  The White House announcement is certain to be received by progressives and Republican strategists alike as a kick to the genitals.  Both are, incidentally, still recovering from previous blows.

Progressives, understandably, already feel taken advantage of by the Obama administration.  With the exclusion of a proper discussion of a single payer framework and dropping the public option from what turned out to be a right-of-center reform bill, Obama’s left flank has been unable to fully enjoy its president’s victory.

And like the preemptive single payer concession, the announcement of increased exploration for off shore drilling has come without conditions attached.  Does the White House expect something in return for volunteering what Republicans have demanded in the past?  Not necessarily.

Steve Benen republished an e-mail from a Hill staffer offering insight into the White House’s reasoning:

Obama preempts the other side’s most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized…


[O]f course, if there was any reason to believe that Republicans would engage in normal negotiation/compromise, then I see why holding this back and trading it for support of a broader package would make sense. But does anyone really think there are Republicans to negotiate with on this stuff? And if Republicans do come to the table, Obama still has plenty of room to give, including by simply agreeing to sign a law that makes proposals like this a matter of statute, not executive discretion.

While those who find it foolish for Obama to expect anything in return for his gesture deserve some sympathy, it can’t be ruled out… Yet.

So far, Republican lawmakers have been varied in their response.  House Minority Leader John Boeher (R-OH), predictably, offered his standard incredulous reaction, but others were more cautious.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and James Inhofe (R-SD) found Obama’s announcement ‘encouraging.’

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) also offered a mildly friendly assessment.  Graham is also a co-signer to comprehensive energy conservation and climate change reform legislation, presently being negotiated in the Senate, which is almost certainly a motivating factor behind Obama’s drilling announcement.

Though he remains the sole Republican attached to the effort, his mere association with it provides energy legislation a different political dynamic than health care reform.  This, however, will provide little comfort for progressives.

As for me, I’m apprehensive about the announcement, but I recognize the political wisdom of it.  In other words, I’m on the fence.

After an initial negative reaction, mostly because American reliance on oil, foreign or otherwise, for its transportation needs is unsustainable.  Conversely, I’m also well aware of our history, a cursory study of which reveals Americas’ highly entrenched oil culture, more than a century in the making.

Often forgotten in the heated environmental debate:  the most hardened advocates for the reduction of greenhouse gasses will recall that they likely fancied some sexy, gasoline burning, sports car at some point during their youth.  And though their present day activism is undeniably justified, a wide swath of the American political center has yet to move beyond such youthful inclinations.  It’s an unfortunate political reality which, no doubt, informs Obama’s decision to expand oil exploration.

In closing, consider this:  Is it politically wise to scoff at people chanting, “Drill Baby Drill!” — a popular Republican campaign rallying cry, rendered useless by Obama’s offshore drilling announcement — or is it better to understand what’s behind that impulse and act accordingly?

Obama seems to be doing the latter – He’s speaking beyond the lawmakers, themselves, targeting their constituents. That’s particularly true of those on the right, finally waking to the fact that the president is a pragmatist, not an ideologue.

It’s a gamble, to be sure:  a political bet that there is more to be gained by the administration’s pursuit of a decidedly conservative policy than there is to be lost by once again brushing aside his progressive supporters.  Lacking further detail about Obama’s announcement – what’s in the Senate legislation that progressives won’t find objectionable, for example – makes it difficult to pass judgment at present.

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Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

Looking back in time, how ironic this article was given that the BP disaster in the Gulf took place shortly after it was posted.

Gregory A.
Greg Amour7 years ago

It is backwartds and does no good to win over recalcitrant GOP.

Roger H.
.7 years ago

Fossils fuels are used for a lot more than just fuel for vehicles. Even all electric cars need fossil fuels in the manufacturing of components. The continental US is sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world under the Rockies and in the upper plains states, more oil than the total for the rest of the world. The offshore areas being talked about in this article haven't even been explored for oil yet and would take 10 years before any oil could be used from any new offshore areas.
At any rate, fossil fuels will be needed for many years to come, especially if we add another 100 Million poor people to our citizenry by giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, who can't afford alternative fueled cars.

Judith H.

I have read that Cuba has huge oil deposits offshore and that if the U.S. could reach a mutual agreement with Cuba could share in that wealth. Why this has not been discussed more is curious. Guess they don't want a country we have spent years alienating getting wealth. Regarding spending our tax dollars to explore and drill and pollute our coasts and the ocean, this is not why I voted for the man but hope he has a strategy in mind.
Read also that cars originally ran on alcohol but after the discovery of oil the power mongers put Prohibition in place, and then sold oil. Once every car was dependent on oil the Prohibition was lifted. Viola, they are getting lots more for oil and alcohol. We could still run cans on alcohol with some adjustments to the engines with less pollution of the air. We are do darn manipulated. We must get off the fossil fuel train and have many options if the gvmt would grant funds assist the companies who are working on this. But you know we will have to wait until the major oil companies come up with a discovery that will make us dependent on them forever.

Linda M.
Linda M7 years ago

everyone, please sign and share:

thanks so much

Kathy B.
Kathy B7 years ago

I think some of you have you knickers in a knot over what may amount to nothing. 1st, they have to do the exploration to find out if there is any oil to be had - this costs big bucks & isn't a cheap process. IF there is any oil to be had, the latest estimates I've heard is 10 - 15 yrs.(I've also heard 20 - 30 yrs) before we'll see any of it IF AT ALL. I repeat they still have to find it!

Jane H.
Jane H7 years ago

We've had too high expectations for the situation we're in. At least the oil will not come from the very people who want do do us in. It is not foreign oil. No one really knows when we'll run out of domestic oil on hasn't yet come up with a car that is not in need of oil...I think it might have been a smart decision.

John T.
John T7 years ago

Some people have no sense of irony. Every time Obama comes up with one of these plans, watching the Republicants run away from their own agenda is better than SNL.
I don't know the details of his plan. My own conviction is that no off shore leases should be let until the oil companies have STARTED work on their already leased grounds.
Subsequent to that, I think EVERY state that winds up with off shore drilling should negotiate fro the same deal Alaska has. The people up there get tax refunds every year based on the oil profits coming from their land.
If it's good enough for Sarah Palin it's ALMOST good enough for me.

ERica E.
ERica E.7 years ago

Great,and never forget the joy of a WALK in the country instead of a drive.

Gregory A.
Greg Amour7 years ago

Obama is just waffling in the wind. I am disappointed in this one. GOP won't bargain in exchange for climate change. BAD decision/Bad politics: 2 steps back!