If you’re a Democrat with a pathological opposition to the oil and gas industry, nothing about energy development is going to please you — not even the actions of President Barack Obama.
That’s because even as Obama is under criticism from the energy industry on some issues, he’s also been willing to expand drilling in some areas, and that’s not consistent with the mistaken view that all drilling rigs are temples of anti-environmental demons.
Especially, perhaps, in the Arctic Ocean.
After years of study by the government and the company, Obama approved a final permit allowing Shell to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska.
Almost needless to say, the project is the work of the devil, according to environmentalist hardliners.
And given that a national election is coming next year, the permit’s approval was a red flag to those seeking the votes of liberals in the upcoming Democratic primaries and caucuses.
“The Arctic is a unique treasure,” Hillary Clinton said in a Twitter reaction. “Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk” to expand drilling in Alaska.
We think this view is wrong, even as we know in Louisiana — as well, or better than anywhere — what the consequences of a drilling accident can entail. The Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 is still very much with us, and 11 families lost loved ones in the explosion. The environmental impact was substantial. That doesn’t mean that the American economy can shut down energy production, either in the Gulf of Mexico or in new deepwater developments.
Obama was, in fact, supporting drilling off the U.S. East Coast before the 2010 spill put paid to those ideas politically.
Nor is the industry at all happy with the president, saying regulations aimed at reducing the impact of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are burdensome and too expensive.
But the reality is that oil and natural gas are immensely important economic drivers and, even in best-case scenarios, are not going to be replaced by nonpolluting sources of energy for a long time.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Arctic waters off Alaska hold 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Domestic production also is expanding on land because of the impact of drilling in hitherto-inaccessible shale formations.
In part because of the expanding supply, and in part because of economic slowdowns in Europe and China, oil and gas prices are much lower than last year, and that is going to put a crimp in drilling plans in the short term. Arctic drilling, like the eventual drilling that will be needed at some point off the East Coast, is a long-term proposition that the nation should be preparing for now.
Clinton is wrong on this one, and Obama is right to approve the Shell permit.