Republicans in Congress and those leading states dependent on fossil fuels certainly didn’t need another reason to be incensed at President Obama, but he gave them one anyway. Of course the President’s order banning drilling of the Atlantic coastline was not intended to irritate Republicans, but there is no doubt he incurred an extra dose of rage from the GOP and its masters in the oil industry.
Despite opposition from environmental groups and Americans terrified of more burned carbon exacerbating climate change, the Obama administration had considered opening up the Atlantic coast to oil and gas exploration for going on six years. Environmentalists had almost resigned themselves to some kind of drilling being allowed, and Republican governors in coastal states expected approval for the revenue generated from oil leases.
After the Department of Interior’s announcement on Tuesday that it was banning oil and gas drilling for five years, Republicans are incensed. However, environmental groups, America’s military, and coastal residents are celebrating and breathing a sigh of relief. In a statement announcing the five year ban, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said,
“We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast. When you factor in conflicts with national defense, economic activities such as fishing and tourism, and opposition from many local communities, it simply doesn’t make sense to move forward with any lease sales in the coming five years.”
There are likely more reasons for banning oil and gas exploration off the Eastern seaboard than those mentioned by Secretary Jewell, but one stands out as more prescient than others. Of course there is a massive glut of oil on the world market that has driven the price of crude down from $100 a barrel to $35 due to America “producing more crude oil than anyone really needs,” but that was not the major driver to the ban.
Another factor is that there are still some Americans who remember the devastating BP oil spill in 2010 and are frightened senseless that the same catastrophe will occur off the Atlantic coast. Many coastal communities were deeply concerned that new offshore platforms would interfere with existing tourism and fishing industries, with many residents “fearing the transformation of the quiet Outer Banks into dirty bustling oil towns.” Those fears have all been put to rest; at least for five years.
Although all those reasons likely contributed to the Administration’s reversal and five-year ban, It probably came about in great part due to objections from the Pentagon and not necessarily environmental or tourist trade reasons. No Republican can ever say that President Obama does not listen, and listen intently, to the national defense apparatus.
The Pentagon gave environmentalists a giant assist when it began pushing the Administration to make major changes in how the Department of Interior sets up its leasing plans for off-shore oil drilling. This was particularly true off the Atlantic coast. The Department of Defense argued that any kind of seismic testing used by oil exploration companies off the Virginia coast will interfere with naval training exercises. The Pentagon has been aware of the threat to national security posed by climate change and has been a leader in the fight against making the problem worse.
In fact, late last month the Pentagon issued an order to all top brass to immediately begin “incorporating climate change into virtually everything they do. From testing weapons to training troops to war planning to joint exercises with allies, the U.S. Armed Forces must show resilience and beat back the threat based on actionable science.” Obviously, opening up the Atlantic coast to more oil that dumps more carbon in the atmosphere is counter-productive to any Pentagon attempt to “beat back the threat” to national security posed from anthropogenic climate change.
Even though the President listened to and acted on the counsel from the Pentagon in banning new drilling, while it thrilled environmentally conscious Americans like Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), it enraged Koch-Republican fossil fuel acolytes. Representative Beyer said, “I was thrilled! I thought it was ironic, interesting, and encouraging that this came about because of a defense objection.” On the Republican fossil fuel side of the aisle, it was a different story.
The snowball throwing, and admitted oil whore Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) lumped the President’s decision based on advice of the Pentagon with the rest of his energy policy to combat climate change and protect national security. Inhofe, the idiot chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, “Any damage that he can inflict on the oil and gas industry or any fossil fuels, he will hit them.”
Inhofe, like the Koch brothers, is beyond furious that this President champions “preventing large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable, but uninhabitable in our lifetimes. We’re gonna have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them.” The concept of leaving fossil fuels in the ground drove the President’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline, drilling in the Arctic, and now protecting the Atlantic coastline from dangerous oil and gas exploration.
This year the President has also committed to cutting methane emissions nearly in half, proposed a $10-per-barrel tax on oil, and halted new coal leases on federal land. And despite what Koch puppets like Inhofe claim, the President’s actions are borne of lust to attack and destroy the fossil fuel industry, but to protect national security and the health and safety of the American people.
There are some pundits and commenters that claim President Obama is interested in building his environmental legacy by taking all these positive steps to combat climate change. But it is more likely that besides protecting the American people’s health and safety, he embraces the Pentagon’s mindset that if for nothing else but the sake of national security, America must “beat back the threat of climate change based on actionable science;” something it seems that everyone comprehends except Republicans and their oil industry masters.