Obama administration extends offshore drilling

By RTCC Staff

The US government has announced plans to extend the range of available offshore drilling in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico.

The extension of licence areas off the north coast of Alaska will disappoint many environmentalists as they look for signals of the Obama administration’s intentions on climate change and the impending decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.

“Expanding safe and responsible oil and gas production from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home,” said US Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar.

“This five-year program will make available for development more than three-quarters of undiscovered oil and gas resources estimated on the OCS, including frontier areas such as the Arctic, where we must proceed cautiously, safely and based on the best science available.”

The plans were described as risky by environmental protection group the Sierra Club.

“Big Oil continues to brush off the dangers and high costs of offshore drilling – costs that the people of the Gulf Coast are all too familiar with and are still struggling with more than a year after the BP [Deepwater Horizon] oil disaster,” said Athan Manuel, director of lands protection, Sierra Club.

The plans were also criticised by the American Petroleum Institute, which perceives the scale of the plans as too small.

“This is a missed opportunity to open additional areas that could have helped address rising energy demand, create American jobs and reduce the federal deficit,” Erik Milito, API group director of upstream and industry operations.

“We hope that many more lease sales will follow in the Gulf and in Alaska. And we urge the administration to reconsider its decision to exclude other offshore regions, such as the vast majority of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, offshore Virginia, and elsewhere off of the Atlantic Coast, from lease sales until 2017.”

“Taking these areas off the table at this stage could impede the nation’s drive toward enhancing both its economic and energy security.”

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