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Obama Halts New Drilling in Gulf of Mexico; McDonnell Still Doesn’t Get It

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As the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history continues to wreck the Gulf Coast of our country, at least there’s a little good news!

President Obama ordered a halt Thursday to drilling operations at all 33 exploratory deep-water rigs in the Gulf of Mexico for as long as six months, one of several new restrictions on offshore drilling he announced at a news conference.

Most of the measures, including a six-month moratorium on new wells, concern future operations. But in perhaps the most dramatic shift, Obama ordered nearly three dozen existing rigs or others preparing to drill to stop operation pending the findings of a presidential commission. Production rigs in deep water may continue to operate, and exploratory drilling in shallow water will continue, White House officials said.

Excellent move, thank you President Obama!

In contrast, here in Virginia, we’ve got a Governor who continues not to “get it.”  Check out this statement:

…I understand the decision the President has made today. While I respect his decision, and the need for delay and investigation, I do not believe outright cancellation was the only alternative given the fact that this sale was not due to occur until two years from now, and actual drilling would likely take place years after that. The two-year environmental impact statement already underway would provide ample information about the wisdom of proceeding on to an actual lease sale.

It is my hope that the President’s action does not signal the end of offshore energy exploration and production off Virginia in the years ahead. Once we have learned the lessons from this tragic accident, and made the necessary changes and improvements in the offshore industry and government oversight, we should move forward with environmentally responsible domestic offshore energy production for oil and natural gas. This nation needs more domestic energy production. If we decrease the amount of energy produced here in the United States, we will only increase the amount of energy we must import from overseas. We must have the foresight and objectivity to not let this tragic accident cripple our ability to increase energy production in the United States. That would be a tragedy in its own right.

This is ridiculous on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin.

First off, it’s bordering on insane to believe that, after this disaster, there’s such a thing as “environmentally responsible offshore energy production for oil.”  The fact that it’s taken over a month to stop a gusher of oil from a busted oil well – assuming, that is, that “top kill” actually works – proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s no “fail safe” in this business. And, without “fail safe,” another disaster like this could happen again, at any time. That’s completely unacceptable. Imagine if this happened off the coast of Virginia Beach?  Why would Bob McDonnell risk our multi-billion-dollar tourism and fishing industries, not to mention our nation’s crucial military operations in the Hampton Roads area?  Crazy.

Second, anyone who seriously argues that offshore oil drilling in the United States will do much of anything in terms of the world oil balance, oil prices, or achieving U.S. “energy independence” simply doesn’t understand world oil markets. The fact is, the U.S. is a “mature” oil province, with the offshore portion extremely unlikely to change that picture, no matter what we do. The far better course of action is to pour resources into the “lowest of low-hanging fruit,” namely energy efficiency. Also, offshore wind power is an excellent idea, one that the Navy, the economy, and the environment can all live with.

Finally, it’s nice for Bob McDonnell to finally admit that “actual drilling [off Virginia’s coast] would likely take place years” from now, because that totally contradicts what he said during the 2009 gubernatorial campaign. It also totally contradicts McDonnell’s nonsense about how offshore oil revenues would supposedly materialize in the next few years to solve Virginia’s budget woes.  Now, the truth finally comes/slips out. Nice job, guys!

P.S. Regarding point #2, this is highly relevant:

Opening up offshore areas to oil exploration – currently all coastal areas save a section of the Gulf of Mexico are off-limits, thanks to a congressional ban enacted in 1982 and supplemented by an executive order from the first President Bush – might cut the price of gas by 3 to 4 cents a gallon at most, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    It’s obvious that Bob McDonnell has made some sort of promise…in return for God only knows what…to the oil industry. After all, he went down to Houston recently to kneel and “kiss the ring” of the oil “College of Cardinals” gathered there.

    (I apologize in advance to my Catholic friends for those references. I respect their religion greatly and mean no disrespect. It’s just that that was the picture that popped in my head as I was writing…Bob McDonnell on his knees in supplication before corpulent, egotistical oil guys. After all, he seems to have some sort of deep faith in the power of oil.)

  • dgjudy

    Or so it seems to me:

    If we decrease the amount of energy produced here in the United States, we will only increase the amount of energy we must import from overseas.

    Really?  Even if we decrease overall energy use by a greater amount than the lost offshore production?

    I don’t mean that McD thought long and hard about the total balance – he’s just spouting rhetoric here.  But the rhetoric logically denies any real priority to efficiency increases.

    Elaine’s comment seems plausible (to the extent that it’s not meant as a literal conspiracy theory) as an explanation:  McDonnell is just thoroughly situated within a mindset that fundamentally holds “economic growth = consumption increases”.  Which is not the only economically valid argument about energy (indeed I think it isn’t an economically valid argument, given that Earth is, in the end, a finite “input”).

  • TomPaine

    He will make the moratorium on offshore drilling his excuse for not funding Virginia’s transportation needs; but the only people who are dumb enough to fall for that fraud would be the tea bagger and Republicans (but I repeat myself).