By: Daniel V. Kish
On the last day of March, President Obama traveled to Andrews Air Force Base to announce his new program for exploring for energy on America’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
Then he returned to the White House to announce his support for a holiday for the late Cesar Chavez, the famous head of the United Farm Workers Union.
His “energy plan” will not increase U.S. energy supplies…it will reduce them. His actions on energy will not help the hard working supporters of Cesar Chavez, but they will do wonders for Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator who will be able to sell the U.S. more of his oil because of the president’s dangerous neglect and misunderstanding of U.S. energy production’s importance to our economic and national security.
Obama did not open up new areas for drilling in the OCS – he closed them. He didn’t make new supplies of energy available; he embargoed them from use by American citizens. He didn’t take steps to lessen dependence on foreign oil; he increased our dependence.
In short, his actions did not match his words, and Americans will pay the price for years to come.
The spin from his image-makers was clear – a major shift in policy was underway, which would open new areas on the Atlantic Coast to drilling. He would even allow drilling off of Virginia. But these areas were already open for drilling, following a national outcry in the summer of 2008 when the price of oil reached $150 per barrel.
President Bush and the Democratic Congress acted then to drop the decades-long embargo on U.S. oil and gas supplies, leaving only a small area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off limits for energy production.
The only holdup since then to leasing U.S. waters has been the foot-dragging of his choice for Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar.
So what does the President’s plan really do? First of all, it kicks the can down the road on the issue of leasing off the coast of Virginia, from 2011 to 2012. Leasing off Virginia’s coast has received bipartisan support from state and federal politicians, and was a key component of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s successful election campaign. The sale was scheduled for 2011; now it’s 2012.
As for the “new areas” off the Atlantic Coast from Maryland to Georgia, the new plan doesn’t call for OCS leasing in those areas, but instead, Salazar will study those areas for possible inclusion in a new plan that he’ll announce in 2011 or thereabouts and which may or may not go into effect between 2012 and 2017. This area was already proposed for leasing in a plan he threw overboard that was supposed to start this year.
The entire west coast is now off limits, thanks to Obama’s plan to open new areas. That means California’s 10 billion barrels of oil and all the jobs, money and energy they would produce for that bankrupt state are now under embargo.
But the biggest threat to U.S. energy security is what the president did in Alaska, and by extension, to America. He cancelled five existing lease sales that were to be held in 2011 and 2012.
Two of the sales are in the Chukchi Sea, adjacent to where Russia is exploring for and producing oil and gas. According to Salazar’s own Department of Interior, the Chukchi Sea area could hold as much as 77 billion barrels of oil. This is over three times as much oil as the U.S. has in proven reserves, and by itself, is larger than Russia’s total proven oil reserves.
Obama’s new plan for drilling offshore in America is a lot like his old plan: Don’t do it. The fact that his image team went overboard to sell it as offshore drilling means he has seen the polls that show two-thirds of Americans support more offshore drilling.
Too bad his Secretary of the Interior doesn’t.
Daniel V. Kish is senior vice president for policy for the Institute for Energy Research.
Read more at the Washington Examiner here.