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Posted 12/08/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Does the Obama administration have an energy program for the United States that involves the development of our oil and gas reserves? Or is the administration’s plan simply to do what it can to make the United States more energy dependent on foreign oil, and in particular, Middle East countries?
While the President and his administration can say that they want America to become more energy independent, their actions are speaking much louder than their words. A case in point is the Obama administration’s recent reversal of his decision to allow deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
In March, President Obama said that the United States would allow the development of the oil reserves off the Atlantic Coast and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. But just nine months later, the administration has done a complete about-face and has removed that area from development for at least seven years.
Obviously, the environmental damage along the Gulf Coast states caused by the Deepwater Horizon rig probably weighed heavily on the administration’s change of heart. While the oil spill had a tremendous negative economic impact on the region’s tourism industry and impacted the local fishing industry, both of those economic sectors are already rebounding.
The administration’s immediate answer to the oil spill was to impose a six-month moratorium on future deep-water wells in the Gulf. And that moratorium also had a deep impact on the region’s fragile economy. And now with the administration’s decision to remove these areas from potential drilling for seven more years, the question being asked by many people is, “Does the Obama administration want oil to be part of its energy plan?”
The obvious answer to that question is, “No!”
And that answer does not bode well for the prospect of America becoming any less energy independent or less vulnerable to the political upheavals and unrest in the Middle East.
At a time when America should be doing everything in its power to develop the energy resources that it needs and to wean ourselves away from Middle East oil, the Obama administration seems to be forcing us to become even more energy dependent.
So while the United States is backing off from offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast, other countries are increasing their activity to fill the void. Simply because the United States isn’t going to drill deep-water wells doesn’t mean that other countries aren’t going to. And that just means that when Americans pull up to the pump to buy gas, they can expect to pay more and continue sending their money overseas.
While guarding against oil spills is sound policy, squelching exploration and the development of new energy fields is not.
The Obama administration needs to work with the oil industry to ensure that drilling operations are as safe as possible.
America needs the jobs that come along with the development of new offshore wells. And we need the oil to fuel our country. Banning the drilling of new wells in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts will hurt America both in the short term and in the long term as we try to move toward energy independence.