Friday, July 17, 2009

The Politics of Offshore Drilling

Fresh off of his national "to drill or not to drill" tour, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced that the Administration will proceed with plans to auction off oil drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

From an energy perspective, that's good or that's bad depening on who you talk to. But form a political perspective, it's fascinating.

Consider this.

  • The original plan to drill the Gulf (and Alaska) was owned politiclally-- lock, stock and barrel-- by former President George W. Bush and it enjoyed broad support by conservatives.
    • New President Barack Obama-- arguably the most liberal president since FDR and the political antithesis of Bush-- is swept into office promising to undo everything Bush put into action. (Except the stimulus... but I digress.)
      • A federal appeals court in Washington essentially does the dirty work on the Bush offshore oil leases for the new president, invalidating them for insufficient environmental impact analysis on the Alaska portion of the plan.
        • Rather than check off "terminate the Bush offshor oil plan" from his Presidential to-do list, Obama sends out Interior Secretary on a national listening tour to guage public sentiment for drilling.
          • Now comes the announcement that Obama is going ahead with the plan-- in the Gulf, at least, which was the part of the plan the court ostenisbly did not object to. The Interior Department has no plans to appeal the court ruling, which is a de facto acceptance of the plan's illegitimacy, but it is asking for "guidance" from the court. All of this notwithstanding, the lease auctions are going ahead as planned.
            • You would think conservatives would be thrilled, right? Well, the Republicans, for their part, criticized Obama for not going far enough, with one lawmaker stating that to only drill in the Gulf puts "all of our eggs in one basket."
              • All of this has been put into play by a President who has made curbing the the use of fossile fuels and promoting renewable energy production and development the centerpiece (along with health care reform) of his legilsative agenda.

                Around and around we go...