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Ban on Oil Drilling off the Florida Coast

By Michael Evans - 07 Dec 2010 17:30:1 GMT
Ban on Oil Drilling off the Florida Coast

After a pledge by President Barack Obama made in spring 2010 that as part of a new five-year offshore energy-drilling plan more offshore tracks would be opened up off Florida's Atlantic coast, the administration has changed its mind.

In March the administration said that oil companies would be able to explore off the Atlantic Coast from Delaware to Florida and 125 miles beyond Florida's shore in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

To many people this change of heart will come as no surprise following BP's massive oil spill and the administration's resulting concern over offshore exploration.

Ken Salazar, US Interior Secretary, summed it all up by saying that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill showed the administration needed to 'proceed with caution' with respect to offshore drilling.

Speaking of the administration's change of heart, he said that the “changes we are making today really are based on the lessons that we have been learning”.

Salazar maintained that the move would make little impact on future US energy supplies since companies would simply concentrate their efforts on developing the oil and gas reserves held under 12 million hectares in the Gulf of Mexico. These have already been leased out, but are yet to be explored.

There's plenty of opportunity, he said, for oil and gas companies to go out and develop these additional resources.

The decision will undoubtedly be cheered by environmentalists and voters in key states such as Florida, which form a large part of Obama's political base as he faces the countdown to his 2012 re-election bid.

Local politicians were quick to back the administration's decision. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida pointed out that just one accident could spell ruin for Florida's tourist economy and unique environment, not to mention the Everglades. He said that he was glad that the White House was listening.

Republicans on the other hand voiced reservations. They are due to take control of the House of Representatives in the new Congress and they have promised to investigate the administration's offshore drilling policy. They are concerned about the current emphasis on renewable energy rather than supporting traditional energy sources.

Representative Doc Hastings, who is tipped to be Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, sees the plan to lock up vast portions of America's offshore energy resources as being short sighted. He feels that it will lead to long term job impacts, economic harm and increased reliance on foreign energy from dangerous and hostile countries.

The influential Chamber of Commerce called the move 'a major step backward' for America's energy future.

Financially, the administration's reversal will mean that it will forego billions of dollars that it would have received from oil companies when they paid to lease new offshore tracts. This could obviously have proved most useful to help balance the federal budget.

The administration's move can be described as either bold or reckless, depending on which side you happen to be on. It could also decide Barack Obama's political future.

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Topics: Oil and Gas