Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), announced this week

that the agency is at last granting one solitary deepwater drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico. Could it be that the Administration is finally softening its position of maintaining a “permitorium” against all offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

Michael R. Bromwich, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Not even close. The Obama Administration remains as committed as ever to discouraging domestic oil production.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident, the Obama Administration brushed aside recommendations from respected engineers, scientists and industry experts, and slapped a moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf. The Obama Administration seemed to relent with much fanfare in November when officially the moratorium was lifted, politically positioning itself as taking a “reasonable position,” and the political pressure eased. Yet, in the ensuing months, approximately zero deepwater drilling permits were issued.

Keeping the permitorium in place is important to the Obama White House and it can be counted on to resist any deviation from that viewpoint. From day one of his presidency, Obama has pursued an energy agenda that puts a chokehold on affordable energy sources like oil, coal, and natural gas while lavishing generous government subsidies on the producers of costly energy sources like wind, solar, and ethanol. And with each passing week, American consumers pay higher gas prices at the pump, more for their electricity bills, and higher food prices.

Right on cue, the Obama Administration decided to issue one single drilling permit in an attempt to alleviate the intense public pressure to lift drilling restrictions. The White House doesn’t really expect that a drop of oil will actually be extracted as a result of this one permit. It’s all done with a backroom wink and a nod. Before any serious work is done in the Gulf, lawyers representing deep-pocketed anti-energy organizations can be counted on to file an injunction against any actual drilling.

This will happen just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. In fact, this sort of governing-through-litigation occurs with startling regularity. In early February, for instance, three environmental groups teamed up and filed a formal notice of intent to sue Interior Secretary Salazar for ignoring marine-mammal protection laws when on paper, at least, he approved offshore drilling in the Gulf. “Under Salazar’s watch, the Department of the Interior has treated the Gulf of Mexico as a sacrifice zone where laws are disregarded and wildlife protection takes a backseat to oil-company profits,” said Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity. Judging from that strident rhetoric – wink, wink, nod, nod – you’d almost think Salazar favored drilling in the Gulf.

The Obama Administration has made a token gesture of issuing just one drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico. It is no coincidence that the permit was approved the same week that Secretary Salazar goes to the Hill begging lawmakers for funding for more government bureaucrats.  What’s more, this isn’t a permit that will lead to any new drilling, but rather to resume a well that was already underway last year. This is vintage Obama Administration. Instead of winning the future, the White House would rather just win the news cycle. Meanwhile, workers in the Gulf remain without jobs and American consumers are feeling the pain at the gas pump.


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