March 31 was a groundbreaking day of such historic significance that had its developments come one day later, it might well have been mistaken as an April Fool’s Day joke.

President Obama has proposed opening large swaths of the country to offshore drilling, reversing the staunch anti-drilling stance he took while he was campaigning. It a decisive move that also marked a dramatic departure from the delays that have characterized Obama’s Interior Department in recent months.

Obama’s proposal is not perfect and today, as so many not-in-my-backyard types are attacking the new policy, it will be tempting for those of us who support a strong domestic oil sector to criticize the president for not going further in supporting drilling in many of the country’s oil rich regions, like Alaska, or to question the timing or the political motives behind his decision.

While there will be time to examine the proposal in more detail, our first order of business must be to applaud Obama’s courageous move, and offer to help him keep true to his words. In announcing a plan to open much of the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast to drilling, he has not only opened up some major new sources of oil within our borders, he has also shown a willingness to break with his core allies for the greater good of the country.

At CEA, we have consistently chronicled the battle to produce more homegrown energy, but it has too often felt like a losing battle. We have offered all the arguments, from how domestically produced oil creates jobs and strengthens national security, to how a strong oil sector can coexist with strong environmental protections. We have offered all those arguments, but at times it felt like we weren’t getting through.

Obama’s support of offshore drilling has shown us that there need not be two sides in this issue; that anyone who is for a strong economy and strong national security should include development of more oil and natural gas here at home, and buying less of it from distant markets – while, of course, we also develop all forms of alternative energy.

“Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable homegrown energy,” Obama explained.

Surprising? Yes. Courageous?  Definitely. Practical politics? That too.

But, if the appropriate actions follow the President’s words, it’s no joke.