Before everyone starts wringing their hands over another broken promise and horrible policy maneuver, consider two things:
First, this decision, while disappointing, does not constitute a broken promise. By August 2008, then-candidate Obama said he would be open to allowing some drilling. Many glossed over this in an attempt to paint him as the next great progressive.
Second, Obama’s action has its merits. Most notably, the president has put Alaska’s Bristol Bay off-limits. Protecting the bay, known for its diverse wildlife and enormous fisheries, is a welcome change from the Bush-era drilling proposal. Most of the areas in consideration would be subject to years of scrutiny before they are put up for sale. One could definitely argue that in doing this the president is merely posturing for environmentalists. Nevertheless, at least it makes the president’s policy less “Drill, baby, drill” and more “Perhaps we will drill, if everything checks out.”
With all that being said, the president’s decision is, on the whole, a bad one. Environmentally, this is a bad idea. No amount of planning or studies can negate the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., may have put it best when he said, “We know spills happen with offshore drilling. It happens even with the most responsible drilling.”
Fiscally, this is also a bad idea. In defending his decision, the president was skeptical of its effects saying, “We can’t drill our way out of the problem.” He is right. According to his numbers, drilling in the proposed areas would quench Americans’ oil thirst for a mere three years. This gives Americans three more years to deny our energy problem, while diverting funds from technologies — i.e., wind and solar — that could be used to solve said problem.
Politically, this is also a bad idea. Supposedly, this proposal represents an olive branch to Republicans and centrist Democrats, whose support Obama needs to pass more comprehensive climate legislation. This is ludicrous on its face. The GOP has made it clear they are monolithically opposed to anything the president proposes. Yet, Obama continues to play Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy. Only this time he is giving them the football and practically begging to have it pulled out from under him. In a few years the drills will be going into the ground and not a single Republican will have supported climate legislation.
OK, now the hand wringing can begin.
Zach Tomanelli is a junior journalism major. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.