Nobody was expecting – nor were very many recommending – that offshore drilling be allowed indiscriminately around all of the country. CEA applauded President Obama’s bold decision last week to allow offshore drilling in parts of the country, and we continue to do so.
But as reviews of the president’s proposal pile up, there does seem to be a problem understanding why some regions were opened and others were slammed – or kept – closed. The problem with arguing, as California Senator Barbara Boxer did, that Obama kept California closed because he recognized “the beauty of our state,” is that it leads to responses like, “What about Florida,” where new offshore drilling will be allowed. It begs the question of what sort of calculations – environmental, financial or political – went into the decision.
Of course, any oil drilling policy will need to reach a compromise based on environmental, financial and political considerations. But if the resulting policy comes across as just too arbitrary, there is a risk that no one will be pleased. Drilling opponents will say that any new drilling is too much drilling, supporters will say just the opposite: that we need to be more aggressive in opening U.S. waters.
In the coming weeks, we’ll spend more time dissecting the President’s new policy. What’s clear to us now is that, if supporters of a strong domestic energy industry want to prevail in the court of public opinion, they must do more than back compromises that attempt to please everyone. They must also make the case that offshore oil drilling is fundamentally safe, and beneficial.
For that, we leave you with this Op-Ed, written by a California professor and published in The Washington Post over the weekend: Offshore drilling might make environmental sense. The author makes a couple of critical points that we’ve long argued need to be core to the debate. First, that oil tankers (think oil being transported from halfway around the world) pose a greater risk of spills than offshore oil rigs. Also, that many of the countries from which the U.S. imports its oil have weak environmental standards that do significantly more harm to the environment than a strictly regulated domestic oil industry ever would.