Deep-water oil drilling: why Obama is OK with angering left and right
Neither the oil industry nor environmentalists are pleased with President Obama's new deep-water oil drilling plan. But in an election year, that might be a safe position politically.
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"Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years," the president said at a UPS facility in Las Vegas where he was highlighting energy efficiency. "Last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of last 16 years. That hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but that’s important. We’re moving in the right direction when it comes to oil and gas production."Skip to next paragraph
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Administration officials say the move is responsible because of tougher regulatory oversight and safety regulations, as well as the testing and deployment of new capping technology in the event of future deep-water blowouts. Moreover, the administration now conducts site-specific environmental assessments for every deep-water exploration and development plan, something not done previously, said Tommy Beaudreau, director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director at a meeting of oil and gas executives in Louisiana Wednesday.
But energy industry officials were disappointed that the president's plan does not allow drilling on the Atlantic seaboard or Florida's west coast – as the pre-Gulf oil spill plan did.
"Unfortunately, overall, there is nothing new here," said Erik Milito, an official with the American Petroleum Institute, the leading oil and gas industry group based in Washington, in a statement. "The administration's plans for offshore leasing will keep more than 85 percent of the offshore areas off limits."
For their part, environmentalists say that equipment designed to prevent deep-water blowouts is fundamentally unchanged from what it was before the spill.
"Sadly, it is extremely counterintuitive to greenlight all of this high-risk drilling when, as recently as December, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council together reported that we cannot rely on the current generation of blowout preventers to work," says Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit ocean-protection group based in Washington.
The president's plan to expand leasing in Alaska left him cold, too. Mr. Charter says: "There's no equipment yet devised that can scoop up oil spilled in the middle of pack ice."
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