Fracking Gas Line Safety

Workers stand near a rig drilling in a shale formation. Advances in drilling techniques and technology mean that crude prices ranging from $50 to $60 are enough to continue production in many of the nation's shale basins, an LSU report says.

ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

With approval ratings low, at least for the moment, and with oil prices having crashed in the last few years, it might not seem the best time for President Donald Trump to push for exploration of oil and gas deposits off the East Coast of the United States.

It is nevertheless absolutely the right thing to do. The nation — and the world, with America now exporting natural gas from Louisiana facilities — will need energy for decades to come.

While many advocates for the oil and gas industry believe there is great potential on the East Coast, it is not the near-term source of energy. Leave aside the long lead time necessary for development of pipelines, ports and other infrastructure for energy production, such as exists in Port Fourchon and other coastal areas of Louisiana.

And leave aside the political issues, which can tie up development for years. Prices will limit the immediate impact of the exploration agenda proposed by Trump's Interior Department.

In North Carolina, reported the Raleigh News & Observer, Gov. Roy Cooper's administration said it would oppose opening Atlantic Ocean waters to drilling. That decision by Cooper, a Democrat elected last year, reverses the decision of Pat McCrory, the former Republican governor.

The issue is not purely partisan. Some GOP governors, as in South Carolina, oppose offshore drilling. Democrats like former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana, have urged new assessments of offshore potential on the East Coast.

Cooper said offshore energy exploration poses risks of oil spills to local ecosystems, tourist economies and the commercial fishing industry, but added that North Carolina workers and ports would see few benefits from drilling in federal ocean waters miles offshore.

While there are risks of development, as Cooper noted, the timetable for this project is a long one. For the moment, the nation has a glut of oil on the market; natural gas prices are very low. The costs of onshore "fracking" development are much less than the multi-billion-dollar price tags of big offshore projects.

But the reality is that, as the U.S. Interior Department said, assessments of whether there is an offshore mineral bonanza are out of date. Dramatic improvements in technology make it vital that a more comprehensive assessment of energy potential be made off the Atlantic coast.

In this case, the president is acting in a long-term national interest that probably will not come to fruition until he is gone from the Oval Office, even if he serves two full terms. Isn't that long-term thinking what we want presidents to do?