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Obama's expansion of offshore drilling - is it a necessary price to pay?

Date
01 April 2010
Obama's expansion of offshore drilling - is it a necessary price to pay?
Yesterday, US President Barack Obama announced a proposal to open waters along three US shorelines (Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Alaska) to drilling for oil and natural gas - ending a longstanding moratorium on exploration along the Eastern coast of the United States. 

In a speech which centered on a theme of energy security, the proposal opens up limited areas to new exploration while also protecting new areas. It is meant to be a compromise deal between the two dominant voices in the US, which either support full domestic exploration or none at all. 

“We need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and right, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place. Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again,” Obama said to an audience of US servicemen and women at Andrews Air Force Base. 

The proposal is also part of a bi-partisan effort backed by the Administration and other leaders in the US Senate to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are currently working on a new compromise bill expected to be published around 22 April - in a final effort to pass legislation before the mid-term elections in November. While retaining key components of past climate and energy proposals like a cap on emissions, a national renewable electricity standard and support for low-carbon technologies, the new bill is also expected to include support for traditional energy like nuclear power and offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

“This week's offshore drilling announcement is all part of a broader plan to lay the groundwork for a bi-partisan climate and energy bill this year,” said Kate Krebs, Director of Sustainable Resources at The Climate Group. “Senators have made it clear that offshore drilling needs to be part of this equation. This is President Obama’s effort to make sure that if it is done, it is done in a way that he can support.”

The three Senators are expected to introduce the new bill in the Senate by the end of April.

“The Senate bill expected later this month will be the last chance to price carbon in the US this year, and possibly in the near future,” said Evan Juska, Senior Policy Manager at The Climate Group. “To succeed, the bill needs to attract broad, bi-partisan support - so while expanding fossil fuel production is not ideal, responsible drilling may be the price we have to pay to get the political support necessary to cut national emissions and kick-start a low carbon US economy.”

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