Obama lifts ban on oil drilling offshore

US President Barack Obama has announced that he will ease the country’s ban on offshore oil drilling, which has been in place since the 1980s.

Platform near Santa Barbara California

According to the plan, offshore drilling would now be allowed in parts of the Atlantic, from Delaware down to 125 miles beyond the shoreline of Florida, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The move, however, does have some restrictions; drilling further northeast or along the West Coast is still prohibited. Contracts in Bristol Bay, Alaska were also suggested, but were scrapped due to environmental concerns.

The president remarked that he decided the move was needed to lessen the country’s need for additional energy, adding that he had studied the issue for over a year. “This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly,” he said.

“We’re announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America’s natural resources,” Obama continued, speaking at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. “My administration will consider potential new areas for development in the mid and south Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Drilling alone can’t come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now. I know that we can come together to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation that’s going to foster new energy — new industries, create millions of new jobs, protect our planet, and help us become more energy independent.”

Obama said that the plan was partially intended to garner support from Republicans in Congress for a climate-change bill to lower greenhouse gas emissions, which has been languishing for months due to lack of support from Republicans.

Some environmental groups, however, condemned Obama’s move. Phil Radford, who is with the Greenpeace group, said that “[e]xpanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change.” Greenpeace also said that lifting the ban fuelled the US’ “addiction to oil”.

“Expanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change,” he said.

Republican leader for the House of Representatives John Boehner, meanwhile, said he agreed with lifting the ban in the Atlantic, but remarked that it “makes no sense” not to have lifted it in other areas as well. “Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping much of the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking ‘Where are the jobs?'”, he said.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but a small one that leaves enormous amounts of American energy off limits,” said the Senate Minority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell.

According to the US Minerals Management Service, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Atlantic south and east of the continent could contain up to 5.8 billion barrels of oil and 40.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. The West Coast, meanwhile, which remains off limits for drilling, contains 10.5 billion barrels of oil with 18 trillion cubic feet of gas.

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