President Barack Obama has made comprehensive energy reform a key issue of his presidency, with massive investments in clean energy, initial efforts to confront climate change, and a commitment to “ending our addiction to foreign oil.” Today, Obama announced a sweeping new offshore drilling policy, opening “vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling” for the first time. This plan would also restore the ban on drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and the West Coast. White House officials “pitched the changes as ways to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and create jobs,” the Associated Press reports. For years, however, Obama has correctly explained that new offshore drilling would do nothing to “reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil”:
“The days of running a 21st century economy on a 20th century fossil fuel are numbered – and we need to realize that before it’s too late.”
“The truth is, an oil future is not a secure future for America.”
“We could open up every square inch of America to drilling and we still wouldn’t even make a dent in our oil dependency.” 9/15/05
“It would be nice if we could produce our way out of this problem, but it’s just not possible.” 2/28/06
“Instead of making tough political decisions about how to reduce our insatiable demand for oil, this bill continues to lull the American people into thinking that we can drill our way out of our energy problems. ” 8/1/06
“Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.” 8/28/08
This expansion in offshore drilling leases, the Energy Information Administration has found, will have no effect on gas prices or dependence on foreign oil. Nor will it increase jobs, as oil companies aren’t really interested in new drilling — they are already sitting on existing leases instead of drilling them, in order to inflate their bottom lines by claiming the value of leased oil reserves as an asset. Furthermore, a Center for American Progress study has found that money that goes into the oil sector instead of the clean energy economy means a net loss of 14 jobs per million dollars.
In the beginning of August 2008, as Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF) “Drill Here, Drill Now” campaign overlapped the presidential campaign, and oil and gas prices were skyrocketing to record levels, Obama dropped his “blanket opposition to expanded offshore drilling,” saying that he would be willing “to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage” in order to get Republican votes for comprehensive climate and energy reform.
In 2005 and 2006, Obama talked about the “tough decisions” of “how to reduce our insatiable demand for oil” and “investing in more hybrids and renewable energy sources, raising CAFE standards and helping our auto industry transition to a fuel-efficient future,” instead of drilling. In his first year in office, Obama made tremendous down payments on the clean-energy transition, the cash-for-clunkers program, and ninety billion dollars of Recovery Act funds for hybrid cars, efficiency, and renewable energy technologies, and momentous new CAFE standards that will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil demand. That accomplished, Obama took a step back, saying in his 2010 State of the Union speech that “clean energy jobs” means “making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.” America’s oil addiction can only be broken with comprehensive climate legislation that puts a real cap on carbon pollution.
Conservatives are treating the announcement with disdain — Gingrich’s ASWF said the president’s plan “is likely to be an attempt by Obama to seduce the public (into) believing that he will do something in the future on offshore drilling,” but amounts to little more than window-dressing. Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity vice president Phil Kerpen commented that “the idea that this is a big concession in exchange for which Congress should jumpstart climate legislation is ridiculous.”