Obama seeks to blunt GOP attacks on offshore drilling plan

Obama spoke in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he traveled to tour Celgard LLC, a company that makes components used in lithium-ion batteries and received funding through the 2009 stimulus law to expand its capacity.

Obama sought to portray the drilling plan he announced Wednesday as a balance between development opponents and Republicans who favor a far wider expansion than the administration rolled out.

“You have some environmentalists who just said ‘don’t drill anywhere,’ and then you have got some of my friends on the Republican side who were saying, ‘well, this is a nice first step, but it is not enough, you should open up everything,’” Obama said.

Obama on Wednesday announced plans that include eventual 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 continued 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.

However, the plan also places Alaska’s sensitive Bristol Bay region off limits and does not call for leasing off the Pacific Coast.

Obama said the administration’s top priorities are energy efficiency and renewable energy -- sectors that received support in the stimulus law totaling tens of billions of dollars. But fossil energy supplies are the nation’s dominant sources of power and motor fuels.

“We don’t yet have the technological breakthroughs that can completely replace fossil fuels, so for the next 10 years, the next 20 years, we are still going to be using oil, we are still going to be using coal, we are still going to be using natural gas, we are still going to be using the traditional sources to fuel our cars, to heat our homes, to run our big power plants,” Obama said.

“That is our biggest priority – energy efficiency and renewable, clean energy, but because we are going to have this transition . . . in the interim we have got to look at our traditional energy sources and figure out how can we use those most effectively and in the most environmentally sound way,” he added.

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.