Drill, Obama, Drill

More

For a Democratic president, this is a pretty gutsy move to open the public debate about an energy bill. Or, well, maybe it's not: it's high-reward, low-risk; environmentalists will complain, but then again, environmentalists complain.  Aside from the substance, which is beyond our ken, the politics of this move is easy: with one fell swoop, Obama deprives Republicans of the major talking point they'd use to object to more expansive government-based climate remediation and energy prospecting policy.

Republicans will quibble over details: why is he not opening up more places? Why is he excluding Bristol Bay? Why is he excluding parts of the Gulf of Mexico? His steps are too slow, too limited...

The Republicans sort of have a point, although it's not the point they're comfortable with: estimates of how much oil can be extracted are very old -- decades old -- and, as the New York Times notes, "[i]n many of the newly opened areas, drilling would begin only after the completion of geologic studies, environmental impact statements, court challenges and public lease sales. Much of the oil and gas may not be recoverable at current prices and may be prohibitively expensive even if oil prices spike as they did in the summer of 2008."

To which the White House responds by pointing to the headlines: "Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time."  Grist, the environmentalist news website, considers the move a "stunning concession to fossil fuel companies." It shows that the president has a sense of urgency about energy and the environment, etc.

In any event, it seems a little tone deaf, given what the public knows and will learn about the announcement, for Republicans to argue that Obama "continues to defy the will of the American people."

By announcing this BEFORE the Senate moves forward with its climate change legislation, which may or may not include cap-and-trade (probably not), the White House is betting that they'll force Republicans into a corner before the public debate begins, they'll give some cover to moderate Democratic members of Congress (who love it when Obama picks a fight with his own base), and they'll get some public cred with Americans who want to see the president moving quickly to find opportunities to create jobs. This isn't about votes in Congress per se, it's about perception, cover and framing the debate. It's also a move that tries to get ahead of rising gas prices.

Thumbnail photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Jump to comments
Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In