Editorial: Shift on drilling for oil is welcome
President Obama on Wednesday announced a new policy that could expand offshore drilling for oil and natural gas along the southern Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and part of Alaska.
The decision is sure to be a lightning rod for controversy, three weeks from Earth Day and two months from the summer driving season's gas prices.
What we need first is to lessen our dependency on foreign oil, and that's not an environmental or economic issue - that's a security issue. A 2008 New York Times report estimates at least one third of the fuel from Iraq's largest refinery ends up on the black market, according to military officials.
"We're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources," President Obama said Wednesday.
His newfound conclusion is better late than never, we say.
President Bush in 2008 lifted nearly two decades of executive orders banning drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. shoreline in a move met with opposition from Democrats and then-Senator Obama. "If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks," Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement that year. "But most experts, even within the Bush administration, concede it would do neither."
Then came Wednesday's news. Why the sudden change? We're going broke and supporting countries that harbor terrorists otherwise.
Virginia lawmakers from both party lines as recently as last month ramped up their support for production 50 miles off their coast and for a bill that directs 70 percent of any future drilling royalties to state road improvements. Virginia would be first in line among Atlantic Coast states to drill, but the domestic economic growth, job opportunities and tax revenues would likely benefit the country as a whole while simultaneously taking a chunk out of Middle East coffers over time.
Environmentalists will staunchly oppose the measure, as President Obama and Democrats did just two years ago.
Republicans surely will back Obama. Now that's what we call change.