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Post-Partisan Bargaining?

March 31, 2010

This morning, President Obama announced that his administration is “proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling,” according to the New York Times. Although I don’t have any evidence at the moment, I would guess that the response from environmental organizations is something along the lines of “WTF?” That’s my response, too.

As has been noted by many others, the politics of this move are questionable. Offshore drilling could have been the bargaining chip that got Republicans to vote for a comprehensive climate change-energy bill. Now… it’s administration policy? Obviously, this can beef Obama’s bipartisan cred but it likely does nothing to advance his stated goal of reducing our countries carbon emissions. If anything, it puts us on a path to further dependence on oil in the future. All of this ignores the fact that the general strategy of Republicans has been for some to feign cooperation with the Democrats while others lie to the public and manufacture Tea Party rallies to turn public opinion against a bill irrespective of their support for the individual policies of the bill.

Furthermore, drilling offshore won’t reduce gas prices significantly (if at all), won’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil substantially and won’t have any possibility of having either of those effects for 20 years, when, if we are to avert the negative consequences of climate change, our economy will have to be much closer to the low-carbon ideal than it is now. I wrote about this during the campaign and you could read this if you want an explanation of those claims.

All that being said, Obama’s success in passing healthcare makes me disinclined to call anything he does stupid – actually I felt that way before he passed healthcare. While I can’t see how this will work out for the better, he may have something up his sleeve.

Update: Further reactions from Climate Progress, Legal Planet and Enviroknow, who have an even-longer roundup of WTFs from the Left and this-is-window-dressings from the Right.

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