Obama Suspends Arctic Drilling
Referred to as Obama’s Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is officially the worst spill in U.S. history, and an environmental turned political disaster. This afternoon, under extreme pressure to act, President Obama made his most dramatic policy response yet: an announcement that the U.S. will suspend any attempts at exploratory drilling in the Arctic until 2011.
Obama and experts alike know that if an oil spill occurred in such remote waters, particularly in the wake of the current oil spill fiasco, there would be extremely serious ramifications.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which was planning to start drilling in Alaska starting this July, will certainly not be happy with this decision. Likewise, Alaska lawmakers, who were briefed on this policy decision late Wednesday, are adamant that it is not a smart move. And no wonder. According to an article on Newser, around 90 percent of Alaska’s General Fund revenue comes from the petroleum industry.
Not surprisingly then, Alaskan senator Mark Begich is quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal saying that the halt would cost Alaska jobs while making the U.S.
“export more dollars and import more oil from some unfriendly places.”
The freeze, he says, would “cause more delays and higher costs for domestic oil and gas production to meet the nation’s energy needs.”
Shell is still trying to convince regulators that there is very little chance that a BP-esque blowout would occur since the places they plan to drill are much shallower and at much lower pressures than where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was. Still, environmental critics are firing back, saying that the remoteness of the Arctic would make cleanup efforts drastically slower and more difficult.
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For the meantime, however, it seems environmentalists have won this fight in the offshore drilling battle. In addition to the Arctic suspension, Obama announced the cancellation of a lease sale project in the western Gulf of Mexico and a proposed project off the Virginia coast, and announced plans for increased oversight of the drilling industry.
Photograph by Chris Graythen, Getty Images