President Obama has opened up oil drilling 50 miles off the coast on much of the Eastern seaboard and 125 miles off the coast of Eastern Gulf of Mexico. While he shut down most drilling in Southern Alaska and has added drilling North of Alaska.

Open ocean drilling is not my first choice but the president faces a huge dilemma in how to finance new alternative energy spending. He’s already increased spending for renewable energy research with the stimulus and in the budget but that is mostly deficit spending. Thanks to the sudden interest of the left and right to have things paid for Obama has to come up with revenue for any new spending.

President Obama wanted that revenue to come from cap and trade but now that the right and left have demonized cap and trade even though it’s a progressive idea his hands are tied. The right always hated cap and trade by calling it a tax and now the left has demonized it because investors are part of the process. Not to mention that average Americans have cooled on worrying about climate change somewhat because with our short attention span society a couple of cooler years means the threat of climate change is not real to many Americans.

So what is a president to do when he needs revenue to develop alternate energy to make us energy independent?

Being the ultimate pragmatist he is Obama chose getting revenue through new open ocean oil drilling leases and possibly oil royalties. It’s not the best choice and would not be my choice but if the president wants to invest in renewable energy for energy independence and not increase the deficit it’s the only viable choice. My choice for the record would be just to deficit spend because it will pay off in the long run.

We also have to realize how we got here because we are way behind in alternate energy research because we’ve had no real energy policy since President Carter tried to implement one. We fooled ourselves with cheap fossil fuels and need decades of research and implementation to ween ourselves off of them. I know many progressive including many folks here just want to turn the page and go to alternative energies now without any transition period. The problem is the technology is simply not there yet and will not be there for decades.

Also for all the liars out there like HuffPo the president’s position on offshore drilling evolved during the election. I never had any delusions that Obama was not a politician. He modified his opinion on offshore drilling because it was popular but he also never forgets his grand strategy that included three basic pillars of his vision including; healthcare reform, energy independence and education reform.

Obama says would consider limited offshore drilling (from August 1st, 2008)

Obama dropped his blanket opposition to any expansion of offshore drilling and signaled support for a bipartisan compromise in Congress aimed at breaking a deadlock on energy that includes limited drilling.

“My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices,” Obama said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post during a tour of Florida.

“If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done,” Obama told the newspaper.

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Woo-Woos were telling me this was obvious. We were preparing for the coming war on Iran…

The others were Obama vashing and HP was complicit by showing a video without full context.

Obama in August did in fact say he was open to this, as in the SOTU. To be against it is one thing, but to suddenly feel betrayed?

I’m wait and see on the political strategy. Any other strategic value – reserve, economic – seems not worth it to me.

It’s just another tourniquet. Like one last hit, man. No really, this is the last one, I swear…


You make a really strong case, KQ. I’m willing to wait and see how this all plays out before I start thinking it’s all wrong. I’m reasonably ignorant on the details of offshore drilling and tend to just not like it because I envision trillions of gallons of oil spilling into the sea. Of course, that’s not an accurate picture of it.

I did do a contract job for a few months for a company that made equipment for doing seismic readings. It involved placing a bunch of little recording devices across the landscape, then setting off explosions or loud noises (they had a big machine that banged a giant pipe into the ground) and then recording the sound waves as they moved through the ground. The sound waves looked different if there was oil or pockets where there might be oil. I honestly can’t figure out how they do this in the ocean. That is, how do they figure out where to drill?


First, it came out during the campaign that oil companies already have many leases which they have yet to explore. This was a red herring used by McCain/Palin, the oil companies are not empty handed in places to drill.

As for this helping our dependence on oil, absolutely not. This will have virtually no impact. Even Bush’s Admin admitted that all the drilling they and McCain/Palin were proposing would only add about 1% in production. We import over 60% of the oil we use.

AND…after the decades it will take for such leases to be at full production, isn’t it safe to say that our oil appetite will have grown by more than 1%?

This is a political maneuver and a smart one but it will have no substantive impact on domestic oil production.


Thank you K. I knew that if someone would write about this issue, it would be you.

I was emailing with my friend in NC last night and the first thing he wrote after the usual greeting was about this drilling. He was annoyed that the President was trying to placate the Repubs and that it would affect the votes he gets on this or even getting no votes at all.

After a long back and forth where I told him that I couldn’t see appeasement in this decision but an urgent need considering the cost and time it would take for the necessary research and planning for alternative energy, we called it a night. I had a headache.

Like you I believe it not to be the best choice, but the only choice at this moment. I hear the distant rumblings of thunder as the criticism mounts and the inevitable moans begin again and think, “Be damned if you do and be damned if you don’t.”

Thank you for the article.


Thank you, KQ for the SANITY! Yes, like you, I am not thrilled at all by offshore drilling. But I think this is Obama’s anly feasible way to obtain passage of Cap and trade and other environmental legislation. It worked for HIR and seems to be the only way in this political environment– and environment as polluted (with regressives) as our skies.

When oil is brought up from beneath the ocean floor, other things are, too. Chemicals and toxic substances such as mercury and lead can be discharged back into the ocean.

The water pumped up along with the oil may contain benzene, arsenic and other pollutants. Even the exploration that precedes drilling, which depends on seismic air guns, can harm sea mammals.

What is the role of coastal areas for the US and world economy?

Although coastal areas comprise one-fifth of the land area of the contiguous 48 states, they account for more than a half of the nation’s population and housing supply. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that America’s coastal waters support 28.3 million jobs and generate $54 billion in goods and services every year. Over 180 million Americans visit US coasts every year. The commercial fish and shellfish industry contributes $45 billion to the economy every year, and recreational fishing contributes $30 billion.

Within thirty years a billion more people will be living along the coasts than are alive today.

What are the most polluted ocean areas detected from space?
Widespread manmade pollution of the sea that can be detected by current spaceborne systems is concentrated in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

How much oil enters the ocean?

The amount of petroleum products ending up in the ocean is estimated at 0.25% of world oil production: about 6 million tons per year.

How much oil enters the oceans with oil spills?

Oil spills account for only about five percent of the oil entering the oceans. The Coast Guard estimates that for United States waters sewage treatment plants discharge twice as much oil each year as tanker spills.

I am afraid that the only way to make any progress at all on this and all other legislation is to be incremental and to at least fend off the most obvious right wing attacks in advance.


A very reasonable argument, K.

As I posted on TO/OT, I’m not going to get excised over this because there are too many political and practical reasons for this decision. Financing our green infrastructure is one of the better reasons. Also, increasing energy independence — which is also the reason for nuclear and clean coal (which I despise) — is another rationale I can live with, even though we probably won’t get a lot of oil from these leases. The political strategy is quintessential Obama.

I can’t blame this president for starting a process that should have started 30 years ago in the best way he can, given the current circumstances. And, for the record, I felt the same way about the GOP “Drill baby drill” campaign, except, of course, for ANWR. We can’t convert overnight to a green economy. I’m looking at this as one of the steps, stinky though it may be, to get there.


Good article, KQ, and not sure what it means or what Obama’s strategy is, but getting Republicans to work with him on anything will never happen, especially after passing HCR, imho.

You could be correct that the plan is for a comprehensive energy policy with 60 votes in the Senate.

Personally, I have no problem with drilling.

I agree with you in that Obama is a pragmatist and most likely is going after revenue for the drilling leases and oil royalties, but there are loopholes that need closing so that the Oil Companies cannot get around paying the leases!