Obama's Offshore Drilling Announcement Disappointing, but Inevitable
by Nathan Empsall, Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 11:53:58 AM EDT
The President made a major announcement this morning about the expansion of offshore drilling. According to First Read, this is a major departure from the campaign that should tick off folks like me:
The announcement is stunning for those of us who paid close attention to the presidential race. And it will be yet another test for Obama's Democratic base -- in this case, environmentalists. As the New York Times writes, "But while Mr. Obama has staked out middle ground on other environmental matters - supporting nuclear power, for example - the sheer breadth of the offshore drilling decision will take some of his supporters aback.
That most reputable news source, the New York Daily News, has a similar headline: “Obama's move on offshore oil drilling likely to upset environmental groups.” We’ll ignore for the moment that they don’t actually quote any critical environmentalists.
While it wasn’t the case when I started blogging in 2006, I have over the last two years or so come to define myself as an ardent environmentalist, working with a climate non-profit and joining the Sierra Club last year, so I figure I ought to give a quick reply to this (speaking for myself, not the non-profit):
I’m not surprised. Anyone paying any attention to the news over the last year saw this coming. You saw it coming when the House, allegedly far more liberal than the Senate, passed a bill lifting the ban on offshore drilling last August, and you saw it coming when Kerry-Graham-Lieberman started negotiating an energy bill with the goal of actually passing their gridlocked chamber. I don’t like it – offshore drilling might help a teensy eensy weeny bit with our addiction to foreign oil, but it's counterproductive for climate change and transportation issues - but since I was already resigned to the fact that it would happen apart from Obama’s presidency, I’m not half as disappointed as First Read tells me I should be. I’m just thankful that the ban remains in effect for the west coast and fragile ecosystems in the northeast. I hope groups like Earthjustice and the NRDC don't ignore the issue and put out statements of annoyed disappointment, but that they also don’t get bogged down in the uncuttable weeds and keep their focus on the doable: passing a good energy and climate bill next month.
[UPDATE] Jerome, with John Aravosis:
..the White House is in the process of antagonizing yet another key Democratic constituency. It's not entirely clear how, in effect, demonizing environmentalists helps to inspire a new generation of young people, most of whom seem themselves as environmentalists. If the President had been for offshore drilling during the campaign, then his current position, while misguided, would be understandable. But, as in the health care debate, gay rights, and other issues, the President stakes out one position, then later goes back on it, and the people simply asking the President to keep his promise are demonized as unrealistic or extreme.
Democrats are not extreme for simply expecting the President to stay true to his word.
There's a saying, quickly becoming the meme on Obama, that every promise he makes has an expiration date. Some, like this, were easy to predict, as those around here back in July 2008 will remember. I would also not that Greenpeace is quite critical:
Is this President Obama’s clean energy plan or Palin’s drill baby drill campaign? While China and Germany are winning the clean energy race, this act furthers America’s addiction to oil. Expanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change.
The problem here isn't Obama's position; its actually quite the pragmatic one, at least in theory (assuming we get something renewable in return-- which is quite an assumption given recent history). Hopefully, this creates some sort of movement for Kerry-Lieberman-Graham to happen and be of substance.