Obama having second thoughts on offshore drilling?

A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama advocated expanding offshore oil drilling in a misguided attempt to reach out to Republicans on energy legislation. The president told a town-hall meeting audience on April 2, "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." Think Progress exposed the inaccuracies in the president's comments at the time, and the April 20 explosion at British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil rig was a tragic reminder of how much can go wrong with offshore drilling. Eleven workers were killed in the accident, and the resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still has not been contained. If it hits the Gulf Coast, the environmental and economic damage will be immense.

Last week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that the tragedy had not given the president second thoughts about offshore drilling:

Obama still believes that "we have to have a comprehensive solution to our energy problems," and the spill did not open up new questions about his drilling plan, [Gibbs] said. [...]

"We need the increased production. The president still continues to believe the great majority of that can be done safely, securely and without any harm to the environment," he said.

 

However, presidential adviser David Axelrod announced on ABC's Good Morning America program today that

there’s a moratorium on the expansion until the recent spill can be controlled and investigated.

“No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here,” he said.

Mike Lillis is absolutely right:

For the White House, the timing of the spill couldn’t have been worse. If Obama had stuck with his guns in opposing new drilling, he’d be seen as a prophet in the wake of this week’s Gulf disaster. Instead, by trying to make concessions to Republicans — most of whom won’t support a climate bill in any event — he’s simply alienated his conservation-minded supporters to no tangible benefit.

 

Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, says that any climate change bill including more offshore drilling will be "dead on arrival" in the Senate. Let's hope that message will resonates with the president. I also hope the administration will follow through on promises to make BP pay the full cost of cleaning up the oil spill.

On a related note, Mike Soraghan reports in the New York Times that BP "joined with other oil companies last year to oppose stricter safety and environmental rules" for oil rigs. I'm not surprised, and I'm not optimistic that the current disaster will lead to significantly stronger regulations on existing rigs.

UPDATE: The statement from the Sierra Club is worth reading.

Tags: offshore drilling, Barack Obama, Congress, Energy, Oil, Senate (all tags)

Comments

12 Comments

Yeah, but so is everybody else

Obama made the politically prudent decision.

Offshore drilling is (or at least it was before this incident) widely popular. I seem to remember a whole lot of talk about Obama needing to be a populist?

In a summer of anticipated rising gas prices, to come out as an opponent to offshore drilling would have been politically foolish. Instead, Obama simply acknowledged a series of areas where there is so little oil and it is so difficult to extract, the chances of there actually being drilling in our lifetime were minute.

While Obama was being that populist we all wanted, and a whopping 72% of Americans supported offshore drilling (Ras, April 2, 2010), check out the latest CNN poll from today. Even after the spill, 47% of respondents still support drilling. Only 31% responded that they were previously opposed. In a 5min news cycle, I expect those numbers to return.

Of course I oppose offshore drilling. But in politics, there's no credit for doing the right thing if it never gets proven that's what you did.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-04-30 06:40PM | 0 recs
prophet?

Not so sure he'd be seen as a prophet.  If Obama had stuck to his guns in opposing new drilling Limbaugh and Beck would be claiming he had the well blown up on purpose.  

by robbie 2010-04-30 06:41PM | 0 recs
by jeopardy 2010-04-30 07:12PM | 1 recs
Obama's Katrina

I agree insomuch that if the clean-up and investigation are handled badly it could very well be "Obama's Katrina". So far the admin seems to be on the ball, but this spill is a national disaster and the resources dedicated need to be upped much more.

And ya, offshore drilling looks quite stupid now.

by vecky 2010-04-30 08:41PM | 0 recs
RE: prophet?

Damn.  I hoped I was exaggerating.  It's like Lily Tomlin said 'no matter how cynical you get these days it's impossible to keep up'.  

by robbie 2010-04-30 10:52PM | 0 recs
It was already on Drudge

I used to wonder if it was even possible for that degenerate to become more breathless in his irrational criticism for Obama. It won't stick, though -- the meme is all wrong.

When Kanye West said it best, that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" four days after Katrina made landfall, there was a moment of national clarity. We'd already had "heckuva job, Brownie" which conflicted with the images on national television. And then this Kanye West guy comes along. From the southern strategy to decades of racist, implemented conservative policy, it hit home. And then the callous flyover picture to show no correction, all in the wake of the national mobilization after 9/11.

It's a little bit of a myth that Katrina was the turning point in Bush's approval too.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-05-01 09:20AM | 0 recs
Awesome timing by the Jedi

Can't to hear how this is a fine thing. Giving VA the rights was smart, but FL, wtf were they thinking?  Even Crist will go to the left on this.

But count on Obama to stick to his guns now-- he always does!

For the irony, there's Palin's statement:

Domestic Drilling: Why We Can Still Believe
by Jerome Armstrong 2010-05-01 05:58AM | 0 recs
RE: Awesome timing by the Jedi

Normally public figures use their personal websites/blogs or other more official outlets to issue their statements regarding things like this... but no, Palin uses Facebook.

 

Funny how she wants oversight when there is oil involved, but anything else?  Nope, government is too big.  

by Chuckie Corra 2010-05-01 12:37PM | 0 recs
Drill, Baby, Drill

It strikes me that the premise is reversed - Obama's announcement strikes me as well timed by accident; he now gets the benefit of having "met the right halfway" without actually having to follow through; now he can be "deeply concerned" about safety and push off the date when any future drilling (which was already years out to begin with) would actually occur, and the right resuming their cries of "drill, baby drill" will lok as environmentally sensitive as they are. But I think the other point is that environmental types who think the spill will significantly halt or slow drilling are kidding themselves: the addiction to oil will trump pretty much every good sense about safety or care, and drilling in the GULF is bound to continue, and drilling in other areas is likely to start. In an ideal world, the resumption of drilling will add more safety and spill protections... but nothing, really, can be foolproof or completely safe. Oil will leak, it will spill, and it will do enormous damage. And we will continue to drill.

by nycweboy1 2010-05-01 09:56AM | 0 recs
RE: Obama having second thoughts on offshore drilling?

I didn't realize the magnitude of the oil rig incident until news sources said the amount of oil spilled could top that of the Exxon Valdez.  If mismanaged, this could be very disasterous.

by Chuckie Corra 2010-05-01 12:38PM | 0 recs
Can we be confident that Obama's people handled this with urgency?

FWIW, I do think Obama's support of offshore drilling won't hurt him with the general public. It will be seen as him willing to grant concessions to the right and he can always point to this in the future the next time the right accuse him of not compromising enough. Obama can just say "look what compromising might have brought us last time".

However, while no one can top Bush II's incompetence, do we have any feeling that Obama's people are handling this with much more urgency that what Bush I's people did with the Exxon disaster? I am sure the response is better because we have had 20 years to prepare for another one. But is it significantly better considering we have a Democratic administration in charge? I did not see much urgency in the government going after BP with more intensity early on to avoid any kind of half assed effort to clean up. Janet Neopalatino has been very unimpressive to me so far. She seems no different from the Republicans. She overreacts with some inane TSA regulations when the African bombing bungler was caught. She did not show she means business with this latest disaster. She needs to resign if this thing gets out of control. We need to set higher standards and not settle for just "average". BP should have been scared as hell from minute 1 and spared no expense to clean this up.

by Pravin 2010-05-01 06:46PM | 0 recs
RE: Can we be confident that Obama's people handled this with urgency?

There is no regulatory framework for these oil platforms. The Coast Guad and US government has no means to deal with a spill of this magnitude. Any competence, or lack thereof, will have little effect on the result.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-05-01 11:09PM | 0 recs

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