Offshore drilling for oil and gas will expand to new areas under
President Obama's drilling plan, announced Wednesday. But the plan
also keeps some sensitive environmental areas off-limits.
Offshore oil and gas drilling will move ahead in Atlantic waters
from Virginia to mid-Florida, westward in the Gulf of Mexico from125
miles off Florida's coast, and off parts of Alaska's northern coast,
President Obama announced Wednesday.
However, the Pacific coast will remain off-limits to offshore
drilling, as will the environmentally sensitive salmon fisheries of
Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the heavily fished waters north of Delaware
through New England, the president said.
Mr. Obama's announcement came as a court order required the
Department of the Interior to resolve offshore oil lease questions
in Alaska by today.
It also comes as supporters of a compromise plan for
comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the Senate are
hoping to pass legislation by late spring - before summer recess and
the fall political season.
Republicans also have been waging a campaign to pressure the
White House to allow offshore oil and gas development nationwide.
"Today we're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas
exploration - but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic
energy resources and the need to protect America's natural
resources," Obama said in his prepared remarks.
Some environmentalists say that the president has betrayed his
renewable-energy and environmental credentials. A few oil industry
groups gave the announcement tepid support. But industry backers in
Congress said the move fell far short of opening the the nation's
offshore waters for energy development.
The president noted that his steps were sure to displease many,
but the move was a compromise plan to boost domestic energy
production in the interim before renewable energy was widely
available, while creating jobs and still protecting the environment.
The effect on energy independence
Advocates of American energy independence were skeptical that the
plan would have a significant impact.
"This won't do anything really significant to boost US energy
independence," says Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute
for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington. "It doesn't
address the core energy security issues we have - that is the
monopoly of oil in the transport fuel sector."
The move opens for leasing and exploration eight areas that could
represent as much as 80 percent of the undiscovered economically
recoverable oil and gas on the US outer continental shelf, said
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
"Our efforts to strategically open new areas in the eastern Gulf
would represent the largest expansion of our nation's available
offshore oil and gas supplies in three decades," said Mr. …