This week, President 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 in 25 years. This plan would also restore the ban on drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, the West Coast, and the East Coast north of Delaware.
As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has explained, an expansion in offshore drilling leases will have no effect on gas prices or dependence on foreign oil. Nor will it create jobs, he explains, “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.”
The media have speculated that part of the reason Obama made the drilling announcement is to “win support for a climate bill from undecided senators close to the oil industry,” such as Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The LA Times also called her a “potential GOP climate bill supporter.” However, in an interview this week with Alaska’s KTVA, Murkowski said that Obama’s overture has had no effect on her:
Q: Between this and other decisions that have been made lately, are you more inclined to listen to them for their energy policy direct?
MURKOWSKI: I think it’s absolutely imperative that in an energy/climate policy, we have significant pieces that allow for our own energy independence when it comes to domestic production. And that’s exactly what the President has announced when he has validated these leases offshore in the Chukchi and the Beaufort. So that’s good, but that’s what should have been done — that’s what should have been part of the initiative.
So does this get me closer to signing off on something that is yet undefined? Absolutely not.
There’s no indication that this drilling announcement will win more supporters for a climate change bill. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) immediately “dismissed the president’s plan as not going far enough in opening up U.S. waters for exploration,” going so far as to accuse Obama of defying “the will of the American people.” Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) derided the plan as a “smokescreen” and a “feeble attempt to gain votes” for comprehensive energy legislation. As former Bush official Dan Bartlett said earlier this week, “Republicans in the Congress have made a calculation that cooperating with this administration at this time is not necessary for them to pick up seats.”