After drilling decision, focus needs to turn to protecting the Gulf, clean energy
This week President Obama showed legislative creativity, using a 60-year old law to protect pristine coastlines and marine resources in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans for generations to come.  Now, we need him to take the next step onto truly bold climate leadership.
 
The president needs to support countless communities across the country — and the globe – that have stood up to say that short-term oil and gas profits are not a reason to inflict health, environmental, and cultural disasters on people and ecosystems. Offshore drilling is, simply, unacceptable.
 
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We applaud President Obama’s commitment to protect our climate and our future, of which he has spoken so eloquently. This move is critical in ensuring these areas and the carbon they represent are now off the table and out of the atmosphere. It is a positive step toward fulfilling the U.S. pledge in Paris last year to stabilize the climate. 
 
All of this, however, serves as a stark reminder of those left behind — like those dependent on the Gulf of Mexico.
 
Unlike the Gulf of Mexico, vast swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic are now off limits. They will not be pockmarked by tens of thousands of oil and gas wells. Their fisheries will not be subject to leaking fuel or big oil catastrophes like the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion. Their coasts will not be marred by refineries and fossil fuel infrastructure. Their people can continue to thrive in coastal ways of life, fishing, shrimping, boating, swimming, instead of seeing their economy and political leadership fall under the sway of big oil and gas. 
 
The Gulf of Mexico has served as the nation’s energy sacrifice zone for decades, home to one-fifth of all U.S. crude oil production and almost half of all the oil refining and gas processing capacity in the United States. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster was the worst oil spill in U.S. history, which saw 11 workers killed, some 134 million gallons of crude oil leaked, and 1.4 million gallons of chemical dispersant used to break up the spill. And since that spill, over 1,300 dying or dead marine mammals, mostly dolphins, have spotted Gulf waters and washed ashore from Texas to Florida. 
  
As a nation, we need to turn our attention — and our resources — to developing a sustainable clean energy economy. We need to become a leader in the next technological boom. We need to invest in a just transition for those working in our energy sector. Instead, we are ushering in an administration that wants to shackle us to an outdated and dirty industry that is literally killing the planet. And the reasons are not hard to see. The reality is that the drilling in Gulf of Mexico remains a massive corporate giveaway under our current system, a golden handshake to incredibly wealthy corporations that should have cleaned up their acts and rapidly diversified decades ago. It is also is the most dangerous region to leave open to these feeding sharks. The oil and gas that remains in the Gulf equals 32.81 gigatons of carbon dioxide pollution — as much greenhouse gas pollution as 9,500 coal-fired power plants operating for a year. Make no mistake, if drilling continues unabated, the Gulf will become a carbon bomb for our atmosphere.
 
We will never reach climate stability unless we keep more fossil fuels in the ground. And we will never embody our national ideals unless we refuse to sacrifice entire communities for corporate profits. President Obama knows full well what’s to come with the new administration, especially one that has chosen the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, to represent this country’s international interests. 
 
Mr. President, thank you for your leadership to protect the Arctic and Atlantic. To be true to your stated ideals, to be true to the Paris Pledge, to be faithful to now and future generations, find it in yourself to protect the Gulf. We are all counting on it.
 
Lindsey Allen is executive director of Rainforest Action Network.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.