Is there anyone who likes Obama's drilling decision?

Criticism of move to open areas of coast for oil exploration pours in, predictably

Published March 31, 2010 3:45PM (EDT)

House Minority Leader John Boehner is nothing if not predictable. And his response to President Obama's decision to open areas of the U.S. coastline for offshore oil drilling was, too, completely predictable.

Republicans have long called for this kind of drilling -- it was the impetus for the "Drill, baby, drill!" chant of the 2008 GOP convention. But Boehner slammed the move and the president anyway, saying the administration hadn't gone far enough:

The Obama Administration continues to defy the will of the American people who strongly supported the bipartisan decision of Congress in 2008 to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling not just off the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, but off the Pacific Coast and Alaskan shores as well. Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping 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?"

It's long past time for this Administration to stop delaying American energy production off all our shores and start listening to the American people who want an "all of the above" strategy to produce more American energy and create more jobs. Republicans are listening to the American people and have proposed a better solution -- the American Energy Act -- which will lower gas prices, increase American energy production, promote new clean and renewable sources of energy, and encourage greater efficiency and conservation.

Others on the right have had a similar take. At Red State Moe Lane headlined a post on the move, "Obama's drilling bribe is insultingly small."

The reaction from the left, especially environmental groups, has been similarly predictable. Greenpeace released a statement in which its executive director, Phil Radford, said, "Is this President Obama's clean energy plan or Palin's drill baby drill campaign? While China and Germany are winning the clean energy race, this act furthers America's 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."

Obama and his staff have, for their part, anticipated all of this. During remarks he made Wednesday morning, the president addressed these kinds of critiques, saying, according to prepared remarks released by the White House:

There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and long term. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake.

On the other side, there will be those who argue that we do not go nearly far enough; who suggest we open all of our waters to energy exploration without any restriction or regard for the broader environmental and economic impact. They’d deny the fact that with less than 2 percent of oil reserves, but more than 20 percent of world consumption, drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and that for the sake of the planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.

Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates between right and left, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place. Because this issue is just too important to allow our progress to languish while we fight the same old battles over and over again.

Update: A couple more reactions, both from senators. First, this statement from Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.:

Drilling off the Virginia coast would endanger many of New Jersey’s beaches and vibrant coastal economies. Giving Big Oil more access to our nation's waters is really a Kill, Baby, Kill policy: it threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars. Offshore drilling isn't the solution to our energy problems, and I will fight this policy and continue to push for 21st century clean energy solutions.

And, on Twitter, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said, "Drill baby drill! Good move -- where are Reid and Pelosi on this?"

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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