White House Suspends Offshore Drilling

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According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama Administration has vowed to suspend action on “33 exploratory drilling operations in the Gulf” and to cancel or temporarily suspend pending lease sales and drilling in Virginia and in the Arctic. Consideration of any applications for such drilling operations in the Arctic will be suspended until 2011, and permits to drill new deepwater wells will be halted for six months, according to the New York Times. This decision is the result of the recent BP oil spill off of the coast of Louisiana, during which the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sunk, spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This poses a great threat to the environment and ecosystems of the Gulf Coast, a reason of great concern to much of the American population. Human life was lost, too, as eleven workers died while attempting to clean up the oil. President Obama increased response to the disaster because of the pressure of offshore drilling and the White House itself taking a hit in public approval because of the disaster.
The Times also reported that the White House is making efforts to regulate oil development to strengthen its decreasing public approval as a result of the damages caused by Deepwater Horizon rig. Obama’s moratorium on offshore drilling is expected to be extended until the independent commission that is currently investigating the spill can make the necessary recommendations for future improvements.
Across America, people are split on the opinion of this energy source. “I am against it because if the offshore drilling rig fails it can devastate the surrounding environment,” said Ethan L., a high school student, when asked about his approval of offshore drilling. Dulcie X., another student, disagrees, stating “I think offshore drilling should be legal because a majority of the oil in the US comes from offshore drilling; if we stop now it will increase the price of oil and we would need to rely on Middle Eastern nations for our oil. It could create an even larger environmental disaster because the oil would need to be shipped across large oceans.” Clearly, people have many different opinions on the morality, legality, and usefulness of offshore drilling, which is why it has been such a hot topic throughout the US in recent years. Therefore, it goes without saying that President Obama’s decision will have its detractors.
According to the Wall Street Journal, his decision is already receiving scrutiny from Sen. Mark Begich from Alaska, who stated that suspending offshore drilling would cost Alaska jobs, cost the US more money to import oil from other countries, and would “cause more delays and higher costs for domestic oil and gas production to meet the nation's energy needs.” It is evident that the proposed plan does have some disadvantages, though the Obama administration believes that another disaster such as the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster should be avoided at all costs.
Obama’s decision is a giant hit to the oil company Royal Shell BLC. Shell had already been granted preliminary permits to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off of Alaska, yet these are now suspended since all preliminary permits for drilling in the Arctic are suspended until 2011. Shell’s new drilling was supposed to start in less than 35 days. Shell had been granted these permits last year; the Minerals Management Service approved the oil company’s plan and promised to “continue to work with Shell to ensure that all activities are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” according to E&ENews PM .





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