President Obama today proposed allowing oil and gas drilling for the first time in large swaths of water off the East Coast, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and potentially off Alaska. ...
The plan calls for exploration in areas from Delaware to off the coastline of central Florida, while keeping the East Coast from New Jersey northward closed to oil and gas development. But actual drilling would only take place after detailed study of the regions, which could take years.
Predictably, some of my fellow liberals freak out. Digby calls it "Too Fine", compares Obama to Gen. McClellan and thinks the administration is "believing their own hype" and wants to appeal to Republican members of Congress. John Cole is befuddled:
Seriously- what is the point in offering up something that is going to INFURIATE the left wing of the party without even seeing if the Republicans will play ball (PRO TIP- THEY WON’T).
StrangeAppar8us at Rumproast, on the other hand, has a take I agree with, "Chill, Baby, Chill: Obama Lifts Ceremonial Ban on Hypothetical Oil Reserves." (I only wish I could improve on that title.) Booman says:
[N]o climate change bill worth shit is going to pass thru this Congress without making some major concessions to the energy industries and that states and politicians who protect those industries. Obama's announcment begins to give a clear picture of what those concessions will be. But his announcement isn't triangulation. His agenda is passing the climate change elements of the bill, not the carbon producing elements.
To me, this is classic Obamaism. He parcels out rhetorical gifts to all parties and portrays himself as the reasonable one, the grownup in the room. He also gives himself outs:
The administration also plans by 2012 to hold a lease sale 50 miles off the coast of Virginia and one in the Cook Inlet in Alaska, if the government determines it can be done in an environmentally responsible manner and does not interfere with military activities there.
Obama pledged to protect areas vital to tourism, the environment and national security and to be guided by scientific evidence. ...
Doesn't "guided by scientific evidence" remind you of his pledge to listen to the generals with regard to the decision to withdraw from Iraq? Dude didn't get to where he is by being reckless.
Then he gets to the point of this exercise:
So let's see. This decision:
Obama addressed those who will "strongly disagree" with this decision by saying the announcement is part of a broader strategy to move from an economy run on fossil fuel and foreign oil to one that relies on domestic fuels and clean energy. ...
The president also addressed those who argue the policy does not go far enough, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who criticized the proposal, saying it defies the will of the American people by keeping the "vast majority" of offshore energy resources off-limits. ...
Obama said the United States has less than 2 percent of oil reserves but more than 20 percent of world consumption. "Drilling alone can't come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now," Obama said. ...
House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said the administration "is attempting to pull the wool over our eyes."
"President Obama's rhetoric conveys support for increasing American oil and natural gas production, while the reality is he's proposing a plan that will close more areas to drilling than it opens, and the few areas still available won't be open for years," Hastings said.
1. Is an executive order
2. allowing exploration, not drilling,
3. which will take years,
4. which may be unsuccessful in finding oil,
5, if it finds oil it may not be profitable to drill for it,
6. will require another executive order to permit drilling, and
7. may be reversed at any time by another executive order.
The net effect is to make a meaningless gesture that is in line with public opinion, which (at least in polls by Pew in February '10 and the WaPo in August '09 ) favors drilling by almost 2/3rds. Obama's announcment isn't meant to lure conservative legislative votes on the merits. It's also certainly not hippie punching - it's only the self-absorbed hippies who think it's all about them.
It's an effort to show the public that he's willing to "do something" about foreign energy dependence (never mind that what he's doing will have absolutely zero effect in terms of making us energy indepedent, which is a chimera anyway). It's something for the media to use as balance in stories about climate change regulations (e.g., "yet President Obama has ordered more offshore oil exploration"). Possibly, it'll make Republicans look even more extreme when they oppose it. (E.g., Heritage Foundation - my source for all policy things wingnut - goes with: "Don’t Be Fooled by Obama’s Offshore Drilling Announcement".) Possibly, it will influence some of the voters in key states and Congressional districts where he needs support. But mainly, this is an effort to use symbolism to control the top-line narrative about the administration's priorities on jobs, energy prices, national security, and environmental protection. As StrangeAppara8us says:
I’m just enthralled by how much political leverage/public outrage one can manipulate by starting a fight over the Free Space on the Bingo Card.