Obama's Offshore Drilling Announcement Disappointing, but Inevitable

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.

Tags: offshore drilling, Barack Obama, Ken Salazar, Environment (all tags)



before we all get upset

lets figure out when if ever we will see a well of the East Coast. First, all new geological studies will need to be done, then new environmental impact studies will need to be done. Then there is the feasibility studies - is there enough oil/natural gas and how hard to get in order to get a return on investment. And last, but not least, the inevitable court cases to block drilling must wind their way through the courts. At 61 I'll probably be long dead before a rig goes up let alone a barrel of oil or a pound of natural gas gets moved from these new areas.

In the meantime what's happened Obama has taken away a big Republican talking point. Sure they will say it's not enough (Boehner already has), but in the end it sounds like weak tea and just whining for the sake whining.

by jsfox 2010-03-31 12:09PM | 1 recs
"No! Bad Obama!"

My first thought was of taking a rolled up newspaper and bopping him on the head like I would scold a dog. I thought he'd learned?

But that was just my first thought. This is Obama we're talking about, and as we learned with HCR, his brilliance is often well beyond the horizon of us lay bloggers.

Not all oil costs the same to drill. Some is inherently more expensive than others. Drillers, of course, want to go for the least expensive. As inexpensive, easy to extract supplies run out, then more expensive alternatives become attractive. If I am not mistaken, all these coastal extracts are extremely expensive to extract, even discounting the inevitible legal challenges and permitting. We already have plenty of offshore drilling in the gulf that no one seems to notice. Several hundred miles offshore in the Atlantic? I'm having a real hard time being concerned, especially if alternative energy sources are becoming less and less expensive in comparison each day. And if it took this long to block Cape Wind, I'm not terribly optimistic that we'll see offshore drilling in our lifetime.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-03-31 02:31PM | 0 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

Isn't this just exploration that's being approved? It doesn't sound like "Drill, baby drill" as much as it sounds like seeing if there's anything to drill for.

Then again, that's probably above the level of most liberal bloggers.

by spirowasright 2010-03-31 02:53PM | 1 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

"his brilliance is often well beyond the horizon of us lay bloggers."


rolf, it brings back the memories of July 2008, when I predicted that Obama would completely flip on this position. You just have to think of brilliance in terms of 'what do the polls say' and wala, you are a genius.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-31 04:03PM | 0 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

Obama never ofcourse took offshore drilling "off the table" - it was always included in the basket of ideas, just not as the end all and be all of energy policy, which was ofcouse the GOP position.

So if offshore drilling is the limit of Obama's policy you could call it a flip, but it's clearly not.

But I do like the way some in the progessive community are making this about them - "oh! it's another slap in the face", rather than looking at the policy itself. We saw the same thing in the HC debate, undoubtly it'll surface in immigration and finance reform too.

by vecky 2010-03-31 06:03PM | 1 recs

But I do like the way some in the progessive community are making this about them - "oh! it's another slap in the face", rather than looking at the policy itself.

Well, it turns out that you can exist solely on sour grapes for two years. Who knew?

I lamented a little while back that it seems the progressive community is most active when it is outraged; something has to be taken from them before they activate rather than using traditional means of gaining something in the way social and economic justice (boycott, protest, money). And in an apparent handstand, outrage is manufactured to get that activation going.

Of course the details of this supposed betrayal escape the outraged. This is for exploration, not drilling. There is so little oil present, and it is so expensive, that with decreasing costs of alternate energy, it will likely never be tapped. Only one new oil well has been installed in the Gulf of Mexico in the past decade.

My concern? It is another slap in the face. I can see how it may be good policy and politics.But sometimes that isn't enough.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-04-01 12:06AM | 0 recs
RE: Q.E.D.

In other news the Interior Dept did revoke several oil drilling permits in Central USA that had been allowed by the previous admin to skirt environmental protections. Causing, among other things, the state of Utah to sue the federal government.

But the stuff like that isn't worth getting upset about so it'll never be heard of. Obama is afterall all about slapping 'the base'.

by vecky 2010-04-01 01:11AM | 1 recs
Red Herrings

I agree.

As I said above, I basically think this is a total red herring and a hollow gesture to the GOP that earns (as per a CNN online poll, so not reliable) 66% to 21% support.

But I also feel a little slapped int he face on this. It's not like Obama is in a position of weakness going in. I would totally laugh if the GOP accepted this concession to strike a broader deal, but this is triangulation, which I feel can wreak more damage long-term even if it gains short-term victories.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-04-01 12:56PM | 0 recs
RE: Red Herrings

Obama in NC today:

“You know what happens during the summer – politicians start standing up and saying were going to do something about it— they say you have to drill even more,” Obama said. “We account for two percent of the world’s oil reserves, but we use 20 percent of the world’s oil. We can’t drill our way out of the problem.”

So he obviously gets it. But what he is trying to do I have no idea.

In more news - new tougher fuel economy standards from the EPA yesterday.

by vecky 2010-04-02 02:25PM | 0 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

Look, you have to at least start with the facts. Sure, by Aug 1st, Obama had flipped his position. You can start with where Obama began, very against it, move to Aug, softer on it, move to Sept and Oct, part of a whole solution. Move to now, basically adopting the most of the GOP plan.


by Jerome Armstrong 2010-04-02 01:56PM | 0 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

My understanding is that it's not environmentalists blocking Cape Wind, but a bunch of rich folk who don't want their pristine view spoiled along with some ethno-nativists, who are probably funded by big coal.

Ofcourse even if environmentalists wanted too they couldn't block it. They don't have any power at all and haven't for 30-40 years. That's why i always laugh when someone blames environmentalists for the lack of nuclear plants! Bit sad really.

by vecky 2010-03-31 03:40PM | 1 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"


by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-31 04:02PM | 1 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

Ya, but Kennedy is dead. Last I heard John Warner was the new spearhead of the opposittion.

by vecky 2010-03-31 04:23PM | 1 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

Warner's retired, and I said Kennedys, not Kennedy. Ted Kennedy is dead, but Robert Kennedy Jr. lives on.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-31 04:33PM | 1 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

The Kennedys have almost no power any more.  Even Patrick is quitting the House.  And nobody in Washington cares what RFK Jr. thinks or says.

by RickD 2010-04-07 02:24PM | 0 recs
RE: "No! Bad Obama!"

Teddy is still a hero, but he really was on the wrong side of Cape Wind, and that was regretful. The good done far outweighs the bad.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-03-31 05:27PM | 1 recs
NIMBYism is more powerful than Environmentalism

True, environmentalism is at a significant disadvantage, as the Earth doesn't have money or power. But the heart of the Cape Wind opposition is NIMBYism, and in certain states like MA, NIMBYs have tremendous power.

These areas of exploration are outside state jurisdictions, but NIMBY opposition could and would still be heavy.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-03-31 05:25PM | 0 recs
RE: NIMBYism is more powerful than Environmentalism

"in certain states liek MA, NIMBYs have tremendous power."


Yeah, MA and 49 others.  And DC while we're at it.

by RickD 2010-04-07 02:25PM | 0 recs
we shouldn't have to fight this battle

with a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress.

The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman energy deal is going to end up worse than passing nothing.

by desmoinesdem 2010-03-31 12:39PM | 1 recs
RE: we shouldn't have to fight this battle

I tend to agree, ofcourse we knew we had a problem when the Democrat controlled congress passed offshore drilling 2 years ago.

by vecky 2010-03-31 03:36PM | 0 recs
RE: we shouldn't have to fight this battle

Only if you define Democratic as "progressive and liberal". When they're "center right" and desperate for more Republicans to vote for them, this is just the kind of fight you inevitably get.

by Stoic 2010-03-31 04:14PM | 0 recs
gas prices

I was reading on Marketwatch that this may be Obama's way to respond to higher gas prices this summer.  It's an eye to the midterms, maybe concerned with working class voters.

But how big is the environmentalist base in a bad eceonomy?


by esconded 2010-03-31 05:38PM | 0 recs
RE: gas prices

Maybe not big in terms of votes, but the dollars and volunteers are still there.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-31 05:42PM | 0 recs
RE: gas prices

Although it sounds logical, this seems like a pretty large decision to be based just on combatting rising gas prices.  

I'm not exactly well-versed on issues involving offshore drilling, so correct me if I'm wrong

I do have to agree that I'm glad the ban remains for the west coast and northeast.  Although its disappointing to hear him doing a flip with what he campaigned in, It seems to be a much more rational approach than the haphazard "drill-baby-drill" take your rigs wherever you see fit mentality by people whose names need not even be mentioned.



by Chuckie Corra 2010-03-31 06:06PM | 1 recs
RE: gas prices

It's not a flip. The concern is that he's given away (a) nuclear and (b) offshore drilling without getting any support for the rest of his energy policy. With a + b being the sum total of the Republican energy policy, what more is there to negotiate with?

by vecky 2010-03-31 07:00PM | 1 recs
RE: gas prices

Precisely. It's the same old story--he lowballed the stimulus and added a bunch of tax cuts to it at the start of the negotiations, not at the end.

by desmoinesdem 2010-04-01 07:42AM | 2 recs
RE: gas prices

I liked this diary by DarkSyde on dKos going beyond the black and white energy debate.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-04-01 01:02PM | 0 recs
RE: gas prices

Choice wording.  Sorry.  More appropriately, his "wobbling" seems more appropriate.  I was thinking of before in 2008 when he stood behind the moratorium that banned drilling off the florida coast but forgot that he switched on that.

My bad

by Chuckie Corra 2010-03-31 07:31PM | 0 recs
RE: gas prices

*His "wobbling" seems more appropriate.  


I'm bad at repetition of words

by Chuckie Corra 2010-03-31 07:32PM | 0 recs
Ah, that did not take long.

 Notice to Kent, et al.,:


Let the feuding commence  continue where it left off. I have repommed my Pom-Poms and pressed the pleats in my cheerleader outfit just so - and just in time as it turns out.

 Now what cheer would most appropriate? hmmmmmm.....


by QTG 2010-03-31 07:31PM | 1 recs
Once again

he uses Rahm's "punch a hippy" tactic, abandoning another part of his base in the vague hopes of bipartisanship. He cannot be that dumb. The only rational explanation is that we elected a Republican who lied to us about everything.

by johnmorris 2010-03-31 10:01PM | 0 recs
RE: Once again

A Republican who passed major health insurance reform, the tobacco restrictions that Bush and Gingrich refused to let through, funding for stem cell research, a drawdown in Iraq, a stimulus package that not a single House Republican supported, and credit card consumer protection.

Yeah. Totally rational.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-31 10:21PM | 1 recs
Blame Obama, not Rahm

As Nathan points out, Obama bears no resemblance to a Republican, not in this instance, nor in any other policy arena. To conclude otherwise is, well, ludicrous.

The only thing worse is blaming Rahm Emanuel, a mere chief of staff, for Obama's actions. Obama's calling the shots here. If you have a problem with the policy, blame Obama.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-04-01 12:12AM | 0 recs
RE: Blame Obama, not Rahm

"nor in any other policy arena..."

Glad to hear that Obama isn't stonewalling on closing Gitmo any more!  And he's pushing forward with investigation of all the Bush era crimes, not to mention cracking down on the telecoms for spying on Americans.


by RickD 2010-04-07 02:29PM | 0 recs
Blame Bush for 2 front war over Oil...

Obama inherited a 2 front "war for oil (& natural gas)" that shrub started... blame Bush and his gang of thugs & thieves, aka; the GOP or Gran Opressive Party. 

Obama was elected to be a force for change... remember?  The man is trying to save our country from bankruptcy (thank you again shrub!!!  You bastard!!!) and dig our financial asses out of this mess created soley by bush to hamper any momentum gained after the election by our President!

So here President Obama has made a decision, as he said, one he does not make lightly, to drill domestically to reduce our hunger for "foriegn" oil (ya know, shrubs buddies the family of Saud)!!

The man is trying to do the job we sent him there to do... the problem is that shrub and the GOP mafia lined his path with booby traps and land minds!!  Anything they could to slow his progress and allow them more time to build thier bigotted redneck followers into a lather about the mythical mantra of "thar gonna take yur gunz!!". 

Ya know, thier usual unintelligent blathering moronic diatribe that gets the "low information voters", AKA, the troglodite FAUX NEWS watchers, screaming racial slurs and packin' heat in public.

Did we all fall into the HotTub Time-Machine and wake up in 1994... because this tired line gets pulled out anytime the GOP has lost some traction... oh, and the WH, Senate, & Congress.  

by NorCal Dave 2010-04-01 02:22AM | 1 recs
the more I think about it

The more the original post bothers me. It's disappointing Obama punched us in the gut, but at least he didn't also kick us in the shins!

by desmoinesdem 2010-04-01 07:43AM | 0 recs

Obama keeps showing that he doesn't want people like me volunteering or even voting for him the next time he runs for office, so I'll go by his wishes and not help out his campaign next time....

by jeopardy 2010-04-01 02:28PM | 0 recs
smart move

He announces he'll allow drilling in Republican areas only, taking the steam out of a big Republican talkng point as oil prices rise along with economic indicators, also Increasing the chances for his energy legislation. We'll see if a well ever gets drilled as they all go through environmental impact studies he's requiring. All that will make the news is that Obama is allowing drilling, not when or how much.

Maybe he's getting the hang of this job.

by hankg 2010-04-02 05:34AM | 0 recs


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