A Seven-Year Ban on Drilling: Is Obama Taking a Stand Against Big Oil?


Look, nobody should think that the much-noted Obama Administration ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf is really going to stick for a full seven years. It should, but the move is clearly more of a bargaining position.

The president is a basketball player, and he’s getting himself into position for a rebound from the debacle of the midterm elections. It’s amazing to me that the policy shift is being treated seriously as anything more than a sharp-elbowed political move.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said as much to the Washington Post, which reported: “If lawmakers are interested in opening up that area to energy exploration, Salazar said, the administration ‘is willing to entertain a discussion only if it is part of a balanced package that includes other energy priorities of the president.'”

Perhaps more interesting than political posturing is that the Administration cited undisclosed “scientific information” in the policy reversal. Now, this is the same Administration that was embarrassed by those recently disclosed government emails about the confusion surrounding the early spill-flow estimates, and by NOAA announcing the vast majority of the oil gone, and by having to apologize to scientists for misrepresenting their opinions in the president’s own commission report…and the list goes on. Remember, this was supposed to be the Administration that was going to make science-based policy.

So even those of us who support a ban on drilling until we get things like safety figured out cringe at yet another “science-based” reversal without any details. And those of us familiar with the wealth of research contradicting the “all clear” on Gulf seafood have long abandoned hope that science will prevail over politics. Still, you have to admit it feels good to have the president stand up to Big Oil.

The Washington Post story is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/01/AR2010120106675.html?hpid=topnews

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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