Obama Administration Clears Way for Offshore Drilling. Eventually. Sort of. Maybe.

The headlines are splashy and sensationalized.  “Obama Clears Way for Drilling.” “Obama clears way for offshore drilling for oil and gas, including off Va. coast.” “Obama energy plan would open Atlantic and Gulf drilling.”

The headlines are also something else: misleading. No doubt the breathless media intend to tell the gullible reader (or casual passerby) “see, this Barack Obama guy is a moderate after all. He’s doing the things you ‘Drill, baby, drill’ crowd wanted.”

The truth is not quite so clear.Buried in the article are sentences and stipulations that make it clear that Obama will gladly take your headlines today for an oil platform Tuesday. Or in 2012. Or never.

Observe:

The new strategy calls for oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, more than 125 miles from Florida’s coast, and in large areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean, north of Alaska, after the government conducts detailed studies.

If there is enough interest from industry and if the government determines that offshore drilling does not harm the environment or interfere with military activities, the Interior Department intends to hold a 2012 lease sale for exploration 50 miles off the coast of Virginia, as well as a similar one for Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

The fact that the average field off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts is smaller than those in the Gulf of Mexico, the report added, suggests that some of the areas subject to drilling under Obama’s new policy “may not be as economically attractive as available resources in the Gulf.

Not enough for you? There’s more:

It would allow exploration along the south Atlantic and mid Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf “to support energy planning” — a step toward potential leasing. At the same time, the president also announced that proposed leases in Alaska’s Bristol Bay would be canceled. And the Interior Department is reversing last year’s decision to open up parts of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Instead, scientists would study the sites to see if they’re suitable to future leases.

We can read between the lines, the same as you. This is far from the boon to American energy independence that the headlines would lead you to believe. Instead, the administration is in fact taking away some drilling options that are currently available and replacing them with the promise of maybe having the government allow some development of drilling eventually. If they say it’s OK, and don’t change their minds in a year or so. But in any event, please donate generously, energy companies, because the Obama administration is sensitive to your needs. Honestly.

When 2012 rolls around, will American companies actually receive access to these oil fields? Will American energy independence move forward? Who’s to say? But is that the purpose? Or is all that matters is that you take your eyes off of “health care reform” and focus on this shiny new “moderate” decision?

March 31st, 2010
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