The Big Question: Should Obama reconsider drilling?



Bill Press, host of the "Bill Press Show" and a contributor to The Hill's Pundits Blog, said:

Absolutely. The idea of a string of big oil rigs like this one lining the Atlantic Coast is enough to scare the wits out of any fisherman, surfer, tourist, beach bum, sailor, recreational boater, restaurant owner, or resident of any coastal state from New Jersey to Florida. Anybody who thought offshore oil technology was now safe and oil spills were now impossible - has now been proven wrong. It's not too late for President Obama to change his mind on offshore drilling. And he should.



Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program, said:

YES. This disaster - which claimed the lives of 11 workers in addition to threatening the Gulf coast with an ecoological armaggeden - underscores that the mantra of "drill baby drill" carries far more risks than rewards.

Offshore drilling puts workers and our environment at risk. BP alone has paid $485 million in fines and settlements to the U.S. government for environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety rules and penalties for manipulating energy markets.

Further, ending the moratorium on offshore oil drilling would have little impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration. That's because the U.S. isn't Saudi Arabia; we sit on only 1.6 percent of the world's oil reserves, while the Saudis have 20 percent. The oil we have can't make a significant dent on our imports or impact prices.

And opening new areas to drilling while failing to hold oil companies accountable for fleecing taxpayers on existing drilling leases is unfair. Because of a bureaucratic oversight by the Department of Interior during the implementation of the Deep Water Royalty Relief Act of 1995, oil companies that secured leases in 1998 and 1999 were exempted from royalties, regardless of the prevailing market price of oil.

Recent lawsuits have exposed more leases going back to 1996 to this same loophole. This stands in stark contrast to other, similar leases, which require the payment of royalties if the price of oil exceeds a certain threshold. The GAO estimates the loss to the U.S. Treasury of more than $50 billion over the life of these royalty-free leases - a huge subsidy for Big Oil. And investigations have found serious problems in the management of the entire royalty program.

The bottom line is that our energy future doesn't lie off our shores. Instead, we should be investing in wind and solar power, and renewable energy.



Bruce E. Gronbeck, professor of Political Communication at the University of Iowa, said:

The spill's irrelevant to the offshore drilling decision.  But, what it is relevant to is the EPA assessment of going forward, and how, with various segments of the drilling along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.



Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

The plan was obviously driven by politics rather than policy considerations. There was never any reason to believe that there was enough oil in environmentally sensitive offshore areas to believe that it could have a noticeable impact on prices or energy independence.

Furthermore, the latter would only be temporary in any case. And reducing our dependence on imported oil by a few percentage points in years when we have no problem importing the oil anyhow, makes zero sense as policy. Obviously Obama was throwing a bone to the "drill baby drill" crowd as well as the oil firms that hoped to make a few bucks on these deals. Maybe the spills will force him to think about drilling from a policy perspective again.




Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

If the Obama administration is going to reconsider its offshore drilling plans because of the recent spill, then perhaps it will also reconsider its policy of invading and occupying countries that don't follow Washington's orders due to the spilling of so much innocent blood in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Then again, perhaps not.

I have to say — seriously — that the penchant of this administration for changing course mid-stream is a bit disturbing. The back-and-forth over the closing of Guantanamo, similar indecisiveness over where (or whether) to try terrorist suspects, the reversal of so many campaign promises — this is a crew that can be so easily knocked off course by a few strong winds that one wonders if they have any core beliefs or agenda.



Damon N. Spiegel, entrepreneur and writer, said:

No.  The Gulf Coast oil spill is a spill and if we retracted current or future plans due accidents nothing would ever get done.  However, he should consider fines that are so severe that safety and environmental hazards are so carefully weighed by companies that this doesn’t happen again.  It is a shame and 5,000 barrels of oil a day or leaking into an already polluted gulf however it still is not even close to the 11 million gallons of oil that spilled from the Exxon Valdez.  




John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

Well, the question isn't if they should or shouldn't.  The question is when.  My guess is that will be pretty quick.  For places like Florida, that rely so much on tourism for their economy, this debate has officially ended, and it has ended badly for the oil industry.  



John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:


No, the Obama administration should not reconsider its recent decision to expand offshore drilling plans because of the Gulf of Mexico spill. The Obama plan amounts to a relatively minor expansion.  There should be far more drilling and exploiting of known resources.
 
Our nation is currently importing 60 percent of the oil we use.  This is asking for some other nations (such as Venezuela, those in the Middle East, and others) to dictate to us how we conduct America's affairs.  It is a dangerous situation that never should have been allowed to develop.
 
For many years, The John Birch Society has been calling for a variety of moves toward energy independence. The U.S. should exploit the tremendous shale deposits in the Rocky Mountain states.  We should continue and expand offshore operations to recover large amounts of oil known to exist.  We should initiate a crash program to build more nuclear power plants.  And we should take advantage of the huge deposits of coal that help to generate electricity.
 
Only a few days ago, 29 miners died in a tragedy in West Virginia and no one called for shutting down coal mining.  An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will obviously affect that area adversely.  But shutting down offshore oil production because of one accident would be a foolish and dangerous response to the incident that would only add to our dependence on foreign suppliers.
 
Energy independence should be the goal.  And yes, there will be accidents that cost lives and damage the environment.  While these make the headlines and become fodder for the news programs, there is little said in the mass media about U.S. dependence on others for energy.  Every American should wonder why.