Obama halts deep water drilling after Gulf disaster

May 27, 2010 6:57:36 PM PDT
President Barack Obama said Thursday he will not rest until the well is plugged and the Gulf Coast restored; and for the time being, no new deep water drilling.

The president outlined his no drill order, including projects already permitted.

"We will suspend the planned exploration of two locations off the coast of Alaska; second, we will cancel the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia," Obama said.

And third, the president is continuing a moratorium on deep water drilling for the next six months, including 33 wells that are already being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president says there has been inadequate regulation of the industry.

"The oil industry's cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship with government regulators meant little or no regulation at all," Obama said.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., urged lawmakers to take up his bill to ban off-shore drilling on the west coast.

"It's time for a permanent law," he said.

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, challenged Garamendi, saying more oil is spilled from tankers than off-shore rigs.

"So I think I'm hearing from you is we need to shut down what we do locally so that we can import more from which we know there are more spills, it increases our dependence and raises cost," Cassidy said. "The more we import, the more tanker accidents there are in New Jersey around the coast."

Cassidy is right, but Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope says it's the wrong comparison.

"It's the wrong question because we ship far more oil than we produce off-shore; what you really want to know is what's the risk of getting a barrel of oil off shore versus by tanker," Pope said.

Pope says the riskiest oil is that which could result in catastrophic spills, which he adds is only about 10-15 percent. We could make that up by simply being more efficient with the energy we're using.

"And if we start today very quickly we will not need to be drilling wells in deep water where we don't know what we're doing," he said.

The Western States Petroleum Association, which represents west coast oil producers, issued a statement Thursday saying, "In California, we have huge energy resources off the coast that if developed could reduce or replace our foreign imports for several decades....our industry has a very good safety record operating off shore."

But gone are the cries of "Drill, baby, drill."


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