Saturday, May 14, 2011

Drill, Baby, Drill! Obama Calls for Increased Oil Production

In response to the American people’s dissatisfaction with the price of gas, President Obama directed his administration to increase U.S. oil production. Not only has he called to extend the existing leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off of the coast of Alaska, but he has called for the hold of frequent lease sales in a federal petroleum reserve in Alaska.

Obama believes that these measures will help to reduce U.S. consumption of imported oil, but he acknowledged that any immediate effects on the price of gas will remain unseen. While it appears that the government is taking action against the burden that soaring gas prices puts on Americans, in reality it will not change the current situation.

While these three bills are generally accepted by the Republican controlled House, however, they are unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate because they believe that the measures would undercut safety reviews and expose environmentally sensitive areas to new drilling. It is ironic that Obama is now showing approval for bills that were once criticized by the White House.

Unsurprisingly, the oil industry praised Obama and declared that much more was needed in order to boost oil production as part of a broader energy strategy. They wish to gain access to key shale reserves, build the oil sands pipeline that will allow them to import more crude oil from the Canadian oil sands, and access areas of the U.S. that are currently off limits. In return, it is believed that the oil industry would generate over $194 billion in revenue. While the American people remain ensnared by exorbitantly priced gas, the oil industry will continue to enjoy record profit.

Adopting some of the bill’s provisions, Obama announced that he would extend all Gulf leases that were previously affected by a moratorium on drilling and safety requirements that were imposed after the BP oil spill in 2010. While the administration had been granting extensions case by case, officials said the Interior Department would institute a comprehensive one-year extension.

Obama also reported that he would speed up environmental reviews for seismic studies to determine how much oil and gas lies off the Atlantic Coast. To further expedite drilling off the Alaskan coast, Obama would like to create an interagency task force to coordinate all the necessary approvals. These include areas where plans by Shell Oil Co. have been delayed by an air pollution permit, but Republicans have drafted legislation to exempt drilling off Alaska from air pollution laws. As a result, there will be virtually unregulated drilling in sensitive areas of Alaska with no regard for the effects of pollution or the long-term consequences for the environment. Once a beacon of hope, Obama now seems to be submitting to the will of the vast empire of industry.

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