White House: Drilling plan isn’t ‘horse trading’ on climate

White House spokesman Bill Burton on Thursday said President Barack Obama’s decision to expand offshore oil-and-gas drilling is just what Obama thinks is the right policy for the country.

“The President’s policy wasn’t a matter of horse trading over what he thought he could get out of this or that,” Burton told reporters. “It was driven by what he thought was the right policy for a comprehensive energy policy that puts our country on the right path towards more renewable energy, less dependence on foreign oil, and creating jobs of the future in the 21st century.”

“So I think that anybody who looked at what’s in that proposal shouldn’t have been particularly shocked that the President was for all those things. And I don’t know how you go about horse trading something that everybody knows you’re for already,” he continued.

Burton spoke in a response to a question about concerns among environmentalists who think Obama's decision to unveil oil-and-gas leasing plans Wednesday was a mistake. They'd rather he use oil-and-gas drilling as a bargaining chip and leverage in negotiations over climate change legislation.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are crafting climate and energy legislation that includes drilling and nuclear power provisions. They are wooing support from Republicans and centrist Democrats for imposing greenhouse gas limits.

Graham is a strong supporter of offshore drilling and Wednesday called for a more expansive plan than Obama proposed.

Obama on Wednesday announced plans that include oil-and-gas leasing off the coast of mid-Atlantic and southeastern states – areas that until 2008 were covered by drilling bans.

In addition, it envisions Arctic oil exploration off the northern coast of Alaska (although it cancels several upcoming lease sales there to allow further study), and also calls for new drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Much of the eastern Gulf remains off-limits under a 2006 law, so a major expansion of development there would require congressional action.

Click here to see a map that describes the Obama administration's Alaska offshore drilling strategy.

Click here to see a map that describes the Obama administration's Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico drilling strategies.

More in Energy & Environment

The Constitution isn’t burning, but the planet is

Read more »