Fresh off the heels of announcing a plan to ban drilling in areas off the coast of Alaska, the Obama administration released a proposal today to open up a number of offshore regions to oil and gas drilling, including a corridor off the Atlantic coast. The New York Times reports:
The proposal would open up 10 areas in the Gulf of Mexico, three in the Arctic Ocean, and one in the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the coast of Virginia to Georgia.The potential areas would require a 50-mile coastal buffer to minimize multiple-use conflicts, such as those from Department of Defense and NASA activities, renewable energy activities, commercial and recreational fishing, critical habitat needs for wildlife and other environmental concerns. […]“This is a balanced proposal that would make available nearly 80 percent of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources, while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop,” the Interior secretary, Sally Jewell, said in a statement.
That these two announcements came in the same week is, of course, no coincidence. The President has long struggled to reconcile the myriad benefits of America’s recent hydrocarbon renaissance with his image as a green-minded leader and the expectations of his environmentalist base. That constituency is predictably apoplectic at this recent proposal. “It would ignore the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the need to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change and the promise of a clean-energy future,” said NRDC spokesman Bob Deans. Oceana’s Jackie Savitz remarked, “We would like to think that we can shift our energy paradigm to clean energy so that we don’t have to take every last bit of oil out of the earth, especially out of the oceans.” A number of east coast Democratic lawmakers have joined the green chorus of boos, citing concerns that potential spills could threaten tourism and fishing industries in their home states.Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International encapsulated the green outlook on America’s suddenly booming oil and gas industry when he lamented that “the administration’s five-year plan amounts to climate denial,” but this misses the point. If the economics are right, fossil fuels are eventually going to come out of the ground. Boosting investment in the research and development of next-generation zero-emissions energy sources could one day provide a kind of breakthrough that would allow renewables to compete with dirtier energy sources on price. But until then, greens are spinning their wheels when they demand that the world ignore its cheapest options for keeping the lights on.