“Obama greatly expands drilling for oil, gas off American shores” read the front page headline in the April 1 edition of the Arizona Daily Star. This Associated Press story claimed that “President Obama threw open a huge swath of East Coast waters and other protected areas in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico to drilling Wednesday, widening the politically explosive hunt for more homegrown oil and gas.” “The president’s move allows drilling from Delaware to central Florida, plus the northern waters of Alaska, and exploration could begin 50 miles off the Virginia coast by 2012.”
That would seem to be a major change in policy, but it is not what is seems to be. Obama is actually delaying outer continental shelf (OCS) exploration and banning exploration closer to shore.
Those areas were actually opened for exploration in late 2008 when Congress, responding to high gasoline prices, lifted a moratorium on exploration. Obama’s Interior Department has been dithering and delaying implementation, and from the story we see that the delays will extend another two years.
According to the Mineral Management Service’s estimate of “Technically Recoverable Undiscovered Resources”, here’s what the new “Obama moratorium” is locking up: 572 million acres that may contain 17.5 billion barrels of oil and 76.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. But Obama wants us to be energy independent. And remember, the Department of the Interior has plans to lock up 13 million acres of land in the west by using the Antiquities Act.
Compare the two maps below. The first shows areas available for exploration after Congress lifted the moratorium in 2008. The second map shows areas available for exploration under Obama’s new plan. Note on first map: job opportunity, spell checker needed.