Obama Keeps Options Over Offshore Drilling


Investor’s Business Daily
By Sean Higgins
May 11, 2009

Signals He Won’t Revive Ban

He isn’t chanting “drill, baby, drill,” but President Obama is quietly keeping his options open on offshore oil projects.

He told Democratic lawmakers last week that his administration may consider more drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.

The May 5 meeting with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee had been called to discuss climate change legislation. But Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., asked if the White House was going to reinstate the moratorium on drilling that lapsed last year, according to lawmakers there.

Obama replied that he would not, because the country might need to develop those resources.

“The president was fairly pointed in saying we need to have domestic production,” said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, who backs such drilling.

According to Green, Obama said: “We are not going to drill everywhere off the shore of every state, but, if there is reason to get there, we think we can produce it (in an) environmentally safe (manner) in our own country.”

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., another participant, called that an “accurate assessment.”

“I had to laugh, because we’re trying to get climate change done and we have this deadline and members are asking questions that had no relationship to what we were, you know, there to discuss,” he said.

Pallone has long argued that OCS drilling could despoil New Jersey’s beaches. His office didn’t respond to IBD requests for comment.

Obama has given mixed signals on offshore drilling. While campaigning in Florida last June, he vowed to keep the drilling ban intact.

But by August, after gas prices had topped $4 a gallon, he said he would be open to some drilling as part of a broader effort to provide energy independence.

Since then, Obama has kept the door open, telling McClatchy newspapers in February that “offshore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy strategy may make sense.”

Last month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held public meetings in Atlantic City and New Orleans on OCS development. The discussions included “conventional and renewable resources,” according to an Interior press release.

Last September, the Bush administration let the moratorium on OCS oil drilling lapse.

At about the same time, Congress passed a law to let states OK drilling 50 to 100 miles off their coasts. Republicans argued that since the law doesn’t allow revenue sharing with states, they have little reason to approve drilling.

Democrats such as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry have sought to reimpose the ban.

Publication:IBD; Date:May 11, 2009; Section:Front Page; Page Number:A1

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