One of the most disappointing aspects of the Obama Administration’s domestic policy has been the way it has dealt with domestic energy production – in particular new offshore energy production. It took oil prices reaching $147 a barrel for President Bush to tear up the moratorium on offshore energy production, but at least when he did, he quickly moved forward with the regulatory process to give Americans access to these energy sources—and the jobs this development would create. The Obama Administration, on the other hand, would be hard pressed to move any slower than they already have, never mind what the American people want.
It has recently come to light, through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by American Solutions, that there may be more here than meets the eye. More on that in a second; first, a bit of history on what led up to what is now called “drill gate.”
In July 2008, when oil prices reached $147 a barrel, the Institute for Energy Research called on President Bush to end the moratorium on additional offshore energy exploration and development. For years and through both Republican and Democratic administrations, the Federal government had not allowed new offshore energy exploration or production. But when oil prices hit new highs, President Bush saw the light and started the process of opening up new areas for energy development.
President Bush saw that the public wanted new offshore energy production. The public favored additional offshore drilling by a 2 to 1 margin and President Bush acted accordingly, implementing the necessary regulation to open up new areas for energy development.
Less than a month after taking office, instead of moving forward with the plan the Bush Administration proposed, President Obama and his Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided that first, they needed 6 additional months to hear from the American people. They made this decision despite the fact that the Bush Administration had already solicited comments from concerned citizens; the Obama Administration wanted more time for even more comments.
Maybe they hoped that by waiting 6 months, environmental groups and their well-honed letter writing operations would send more comments to the Administration than people who want increased energy security and jobs created by offshore energy development. But if that was the Administration’s plan, it backfired.
The Institute for Energy Research and several other like-minded groups organized our own plans to help Americans let their government know they favored additional offshore energy production. Unfortunately for the Obama Administration, our efforts paid off. The Administration received pro-drilling comments from the public by a 2 to 1 margin.
But here’s the catch… the Obama Administration didn’t publicize this information, despite having the information months ago. We only recently found out because another pro-energy, pro-jobs, pro-economic growth group, American Solutions used the Freedom of Information Act to pry this information from the Administration.
So why does offshore drilling matter? One reason is that it will create a lot of new jobs. In fact, one study estimates that over a million U.S. jobs are locked away in the job-creating energy resources we have offshore. Also, by producing oil and natural gas at home we’ll help stabilize the world market for oil, holding the price lower.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said that he was open to offshore energy production. Now is the time for him to walk the walk and not just talk the talk on offshore energy and jobs production.