PRESIDENT Barack Obama hadn’t officially announced his administration’s new plan on offshore oil and natural gas drilling Wednesday when House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement saying the proposal didn’t go far enough. Par for the course in Washington these days.
We tend to agree with Boehner that the entire outer continental shelf should be tapped for technologically advanced, environmentally safe development of American energy resources. Yet what Obama announced is pretty bold considering the environmental movement’s grip on Democratic politicians. It’s not everything, but it is significant. Obama would end the longstanding moratorium on East Coast exploration from Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean, while offering a tract in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Published reports indicated it might hold from 3 billion to more than 40 billion barrels of oil and 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Obama also would open up nearly 130 million acres in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska for study and possible future development. It’s probable that drilling will first be seen in an area about 50 miles off Virginia’s coast that was previously approved for development but held up by legal wrangling and government review. Geologic and environmental studies will be conducted in the other areas to see what they might hold. Officials said the next lease sales wouldn’t be conducted before 2012. Again, it’s not the entire outer continental shelf or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, but it’s important.