The consensus, among People on the Internet anyway, is that Obama’s far-reaching offshore drilling expansion is a bid to win Republican support for clean-energy legislation. More offshore drilling is a major Republican energy priority, after all. So how are GOP leaders responding?
Said Boehner: “Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking ‘Where are the jobs?’.”
But Obama doesn’t have to be concerned about House Republicans, because they’ve already passed a clean-energy bill in the House. The Senate is what matters.
The lead Republican senator on energy negotiation, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), was more diplomatic. “This is a good first step,” he said. “But there is more that must be done to make this proposal meaningful and the game-changer we all want it to become.”
The question is whether Obama’s move is getting him any Republican votes for the Senate bill, which hasn’t even been introduced yet. Nothing’s come to light yet, and environmental groups aren’t happy about the apparent pre-emptive compromise.
New Sierra Club chief Michael Brune says, “The oil industry already has access to drilling on millions of acres of America’s public lands and water. We don’t need to hand over our last protected pristine coastal areas just so oil companies can break more profit records.”
Pew Environment Group, on the other hand, applauds Obama’s “cautious” approach, which does not allow leases to begin until 2012.
And some Alaska conservation groups say they’re happy that the salmon-rich Bristol Bay gets protected as an “environmentally sensitive” area. Are the marine ecosystems of the Arctic, Gulf, and East coasts not environmentally sensitive?
Responses from the energy industry are fairly temperate (Financial Times has a collection). Says American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard, “We look forward to reviewing the details of the proposal, and we stand ready to work with [the administration] to make this a reality.”
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