Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 31, 2010

IN EXCHANGE FOR WHAT?.... That the Obama administration would agree to open offshore areas to oil drilling is not exactly shocking. President Obama expressed a willingness to incorporate this into a larger energy policy during the campaign, and he alluded to "opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development" during the State of the Union. It's not like this policy is a shift or coming out of nowhere.

I am interested, though, in what the administration may get in the way of concessions after agreeing to such a move.

The Obama 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, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

The proposal -- a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations -- would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.

Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.

The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected and no drilling would be allowed under the plan, officials said. But large tracts in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska -- nearly 130 million acres -- would be eligible for exploration and drilling after extensive studies.

Under any scenario, actual drilling is still years away, and it's unclear how many East coast states, if any, will raise objections.

But I'm especially interested in the larger political dynamic. As I understand it, the plan the White House has supported for months includes a give and take on energy -- Republicans would get the drilling and nuclear advances, while Democrats would get cap-and-trade. There are plenty of related details, but in general, this would serve as the basis for a grand, comprehensive bargain on energy.

My confusion, then, is over the administration's negotiating tactics. In February, the president cleared the way for the first new U.S. nuclear power plants in more than 30 years. Today, the president will reportedly open up new opportunities for coastal drilling.

In other words, Obama has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy. What is he getting in return?

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (56)

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Comments

Like Steve said - give and take.

Obama gives, the Republicans take.

Posted by: Okie on March 31, 2010 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

I am not sure we need to view everything through the Republican Democrat lense. What he gets is a few years oil production while the windmills and solar panels take over.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 31, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's long term thinking; he seems to be good at that.

Step One: substitute domestic for Mid east oil- same fossil fuel, without the terrorism byproduct.

Step Two: Substitute renewables for the domestic fossil fuels.

Game, set, and match. . .

Posted by: DAY on March 31, 2010 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Everytime Obama does something like this, it makes me scratch my head, at least until I remember that he's smarter than I am.

It might be reverse psychology. Obama gives the GOPers what they want, so naturally the stupid bastards will oppose it.

Posted by: azportsider on March 31, 2010 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

i agree, obama has just taken away the republlcans 'drill baby drill' mantra and can say 'i gave them what they wanted' lets see them man up and work with me. support or not either way the repubs have been out flanked once again.

Posted by: kurt on March 31, 2010 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Guys, it's obviously another example of 11 dimensional chess (or is it 12?)

Posted by: tommybones on March 31, 2010 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

i agree, obama has just taken away the republlcans 'drill baby drill' mantra and can say 'i gave them what they wanted' lets see them man up and work with me. support or not either way the repubs have been out flanked once again.

Posted by: kurt on March 31, 2010 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

"White House officials hope Wednesday's announcement will attract support from Republicans..."

Well, this looks like a flawed negotiating tactic, giving the Republicans what they want and then hoping for cooperation. Like giving up on single payer and hardly supporting a public option in health care reform proposals. See how much Republican support that got.

Lots of luck in getting Republican votes for a carbon tax or cap and trade.

homer www.altara.blogspot.com

Posted by: altara on March 31, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Folks the more important energy story is Nissan's introduction of an electric car for about $25,000. GM is about to introduce it's Volt for something more, but the Volt is a bigger more versatle car. Plugging an electric in at home costs about 1/6 th the cost of gasoline. If the electrics become popular as around town cars, the need for gasoline will be greatly reduced. The Volt could give the benefits of an electric around town with an ability to go on the road. These are win, win, win technologies. The only work if we expand our sources of alternative energy--mostly wind and solar with nuclear thrown in. If the coal companies can figure out how to trap CO2 then I think Obama is open to "clean coal" what ever that is. The first step to a successful future is greatly reducing the need for gasoline.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 31, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

In other words, Obama has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy. What is he getting in return?

A swift kick in the groin.

Posted by: stevio on March 31, 2010 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

stevio, you or I would get a swift kick in the groin, but I am pretty impressed with Obama. He made a blunder early on health care, but he has recovered nicely. He seems to know what he is doing.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 31, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Republicans would get the drilling and nuclear advances, while Democrats would get cap-and-trade."

Which is a bad deal, because cap and trade does not reduce emissions.

Posted by: Algernon on March 31, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Now that offshore drilling is a socialist policy, I'm all for it. Bring on that sweet 15-cent-per-gallon gasoline!

Posted by: chrenson on March 31, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Reason #7 why we should always elect a democrat as president and never a republican:

When we elect a republican as president, we know that the american worker and the environment are going to get screwed.

When we elect a democrat as president, we can pretend to be surprised when the american worker and the environment get screwed.

Maybe we should hope that the Pine Island Glacier does have a rupture and cause the ocean levels worldwide to rise by more than a meter in a very short amount of time. It will probably take a wake up call of that dimension to get the attention of the amerikan sheeple.

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 31, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the deal wasn't so much for the Republicans but for big oil. Maybe O's trying to separate the opposition form some of their $$ and PR support.

Posted by: Greg Worley on March 31, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

If you look at the electoral Red/Blue map, it appears areas of Red are only being opened. This is a diabolical plan to pollute the Red states shorelines when an oil spill may occur.

Posted by: flyonthewall on March 31, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Although it is now an article in the faith base community that another "Saudi Arabia" lies off of the East Coast, (and environmentalists seem to fear that there is one), the geology of the eastern continental shelf is not that different than the geology of the Atlantic coastal plain, and I have never seen much in the way of oil discovered in New Jersey and the DelMarVa. Natural gas there may be, but right now the hydraulic cracking technique has made huge amounts of natural gas easily accessible on land in the coal and shale formations that underlie much of the United States. However, this is either another example of the administration compromising with itself, or trying to look good to independents while painting the Republicans as obstructionists.

Posted by: sherparick on March 31, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy. What is he getting in return?

I'm sure that, just as with health insurance reform, the "liberal media" will point out that Obama's proposals are bipartisan and incorporate a number of Republican ideas, and will push back against the inevitable Republican accusations of radicalism.

Posted by: Gregory on March 31, 2010 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

What is he getting in return?

A second term. At least that's how he figures it.

Obama cheerfully adopts Third Way or GOP policies and then, in 2012, he expects that independents will dismiss Republican accusations of socialism and "liberal extremism", etc.

And "The Left"? Where are they going to go?

The downside is that, after unilaterally accepting off-shore drilling, "clean coal", and nuclear energy, Obama has no more carrots in reserve to bring the carbon-based energy industries to the bargaining table should he attempt to fundamentally change U.S. energy policy.

People can decide for themselves whether a stable climate for future generations was too high a price to pay for Obama's second term.

Posted by: square1 on March 31, 2010 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

What Obama gets in return: a pretty bipartisan pony.

Posted by: PaulW on March 31, 2010 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Algernon you are right, cap and trade is an interum solution. I don't like it at all. The regulation regime depends on somethings in short supply--business honesty and integrity. It is essentially a Republican inspired way to an energy casino. Never forget that historically the biggest proponents of cap and trade in the US Senate have been Joe Lieberman and John McCain.

The better solution is to deal with peak oil head on--reduce the demand for petrolium products. Opening the coasts to drilling only buys a little time. There just isn't enough oil there to "solve" our energy problems. The transition to a mostly electric vehicle fleet will take time and create lots and lots of American jobs. Just what we need right now.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 31, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Obama could drop a couple of nuclear bombs on Iran, and some people here would be applauding his brilliance because he took away McCain's "Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran" mantra.

Posted by: Rusty on March 31, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

What he gets is a few years oil production while the windmills and solar panels take over.

Someone needs to do a little homework on how much oil is there, how it's sold on the world market and where we are in the adoption of "windmills" and solar panels.

Posted by: shortstop on March 31, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Uh...more jobs for americans, lower fuel bills and less money going overseas.

Wouldn't want to think about what's right for the country when there's an emergency to take advantage of.

Versus capntrade's higher taxes, less growth and more government payoffs.

Sounds like about the first bright idea this dude's had.

Posted by: dude on March 31, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

In the picture show about a smart math guy helping the FBI , a cosmologist was given the Yoda role . He would say something like , "If you cannot see what is out there , recognise what it is you fail to see because of its unobservable presence" . I believe that regardless of the failure of a one to one effect , Republicans will be known , branded , by either omission or commission .
Or in the words of Nelson Muntz , Ha Ha !

Posted by: FRP on March 31, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

"reducing the need for gasoline"

Or you could try to do that by introducing the way some of my fellow Progressives in Portland have deluded themselves into attempting. Under a Federal Mandate, we must clean up the Willamette River, so, we are spending a vast sum on "The Big Pipe", which is a huge underground sewer system. As a result we have the highest sewer bills in the nation. They are tacked on to our water bills which we receive every 3 months. The bills are now over $200 per quarter and higher rates are being demanded. This has hit seniors on fixed incomes very hard. However, now, our Progressive Mayor wants to take a good portion of the money and, no, not give us any refund, but, build more bike paths and bike lanes, so we will be less dependent on gasoline. Even our marvelous Rep Blumenhauer had a bike emblem on his lapel when he spoke the last session on the ACA bill. Yeah, tax seniors out of their homes, but build more bike paths for the youngins. Some Progressives have become very twisted in their thinking. The PNW used to be a wonderful place to retire.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 31, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers said:
If the electrics become popular as around town cars, the need for gasoline will be greatly reduced.

And the need for electricity -- mostly from hight carbon, high particulate, countryside-destroying coal -- will spike.

If the coal companies can figure out how to trap CO2 then I think Obama is open to "clean coal" what ever that is.

The way to have "clean coal" is to leave it in the f*ucking ground, which also keeps the carbon where it already is trapped.

Instead of drilling more, and building more nuclear plants, why don't we first try putting solar panels on every home and building in the country where there's enough sun? Government subsidies -- for solar panels or wind turbines built in the U.S. -- and the prospect of "free" electricity would make this very popular.

Posted by: SteveT on March 31, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

What he gets is support from the oil companies for energy legislation. This is akin to the Pharma deal for health care reform.

The players in policy are not just elected officials. What the deep pocket interest groups do matters. If Obama has them on his side, that takes away an opponent. They may even become advocates for his policy package -- if indeed a deal has been made with them.

And since some domestic oil drilling is popular, he's defused a Republican political advantage.

Posted by: Amy on March 31, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe he doesn't think the offshore drilling is a big deal?

Those areas are going to be drilled eventually. There is no use pretending human greed can be delayed indefinitely. Might as well do it now and put a strict regulatory process in place.

Posted by: inkadu on March 31, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Uh...more jobs for americans, lower fuel bills and less money going overseas.

Please join Ron Byers in class.

Posted by: shortstop on March 31, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

SteveT and me agree
I don't think a coalition of me and T will be effective
I do think that The Prez will create room by his own inclusive actions .
McConnell and the Boehner can find out just what the limit is on high volume "WOLF" .
Last I recall it was , ungood .

Posted by: FRP on March 31, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Why don't we just admit that short term political gain is just as important to the Obomination and the democrats as it is to the rethugnicans?

Screw the long term future of this planet in return for short term political gain!

- Citizens United Not Timid vs FEC
- Texas Taliban rewriting history
- Climate change deniers
- Teabaggers and assorted brown shirts of the reich wing

Does our country deserve to continue to exist?
Does our planet deserve to have the human species vanish?

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 31, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

The way to have "clean coal" is to leave it in the f*ucking ground, which also keeps the carbon where it already is trapped.

Not according to the almost daily screeds by West Virginia blogitors in their editorials and letters section. Your suggestion is "an attack on the coal industry" and would never fly here or in other coal producing states. Rocky and Byrd need all the help they can get here to get elected, so count them out.

Posted by: flyonthewall on March 31, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is asking for what Obama wants on energy, there is no exchange. Same as health care, Obama didn't want a public option, so he didn't get one. What the Republicans want is not at the top of his list.

He gets a rhetorical win against the Republicans, but more importantly he expands domestic oil production, which is one of his goals.

Posted by: tib on March 31, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

What is the take on this give? President Obama gets campaign cover for November 2010 regarding energy policy!

Hard to run on Drill Baby Drill when the opposition has set policy as such 8 months prior to the elections! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 31, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

What he gets is a few years oil production while the windmills and solar panels take over.

Step One: substitute domestic for Mid east oil- same fossil fuel, without the terrorism byproduct.

Doesn't work this way. Oil is sold on a global market so even if we could drill today, which we can't, all we would be doing is adding a very small drop to the world oil supply. The only way this would work the way you're thinking is if we forced US oil companies to sell their oil domestically which could never happen. They are going to sell at the global market rate. More importantly, even if we had any will to force US oil companies to behave this way, that would make domestic oil more, not less expensive, than the oil on the global market.

Posted by: brent on March 31, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

You don't get it. He has decided that Republicans are irrelevant. It isn't about working with them it is about working around them. The grand deal wasn't about doing what was expedient it was about doing what was right. So now he is just going to find a way to get it done. He will do the easy bit first. The part his own party will object to. Then he will point to that and try to ram through the other bits against Republican objections. Hopefully ending up in roughly the same place policy wise. A little messier and who knows? As some of the saner if there are any folks on the other side of the aisle see what is happening, maybe he will be able to pick a couple off.

Posted by: SW on March 31, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Me thinks all of the idealists on this comment thread don't like the pragmatist much. Personally, I voted for the pragmatist. And, yes, he is doing his best to take a page from Bill Clinton and coopt what remains of the Republican play book. Honestly, what have they got left at this point-free markets? Bahaaha. As Andrew would say, Meep, meep.

Posted by: Scott F. on March 31, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

In the days before the voting for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, there were, actually, some very decent Liberal and Moderate Republicans of the Party of Lincoln. However, the switching of racist Southern Democrats to become RepuGs turned the party away from them. The newbies purged the party of Liberals and Moderates. They hate them far worse than they hate Democrats.

So, Progressives, it really is OK that we voted for a Liberal Republican of the Lincoln heritage to lead our party. Yes, he has moved our party to the right, but, he is making a great deal of progress and it drives the enemy, i.e. the RepuGs absolutely crazy that he is co-opting so many of their ideas. Obama is far more of a Lincoln pragmatist than any Daley machine pol. Let the whining by the Left cease.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 31, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Load with taxcuts, get 60 votes for ARRA.

Drop the public option, get 60 votes for PPACA.

Obama is not negotiating with Republicans, he is negotiating with closet Republicans (aka the ConservaDems) inside his now 59 Dem caucus.

Posted by: Ohioan on March 31, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

In other words, Obama has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy. What is he getting in return?
======================

On past performance, in return for Obama giving them what they want on energy, the Republicans will mournfully agree to Obama completely abandoning a key Democratic principle. Like, say, support for the Social Security system.

Such a deal.

Posted by: Charles Grabtharhammer on March 31, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

In other words, Obama has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy. What is he getting in return?

Shit like this makes me shake my head. Coming into office, Obama's top 3 initiatives were to be healthcare, education, and energy. I get that with an economic crisis and collapsing energy prices the latter was going to be put on the back burner. Maybe this is a deal similar to pharma, and Obama is just positioning for a future move. I have suspected all along that a push for a climate/energy bill would best occur at high tide so to speak, when gas hits $4 a gallon again, a cat 5 hurricane strikes another major city, or an August heatwave hits the U.S. etc, etc. I guess O and Rahm are calculating that when that scenario hits, and since Republicans aren't going to play anyway, they need to get out in front of the RepTEAFOXlican party freakout. Sway public opinion with "See, we already are offshore drilling and now we need to do more". The problems is you need mother nature to provide step one, you need a global economic recovery to provide step two, and you need enough of a rapidly shrinking democratic majority to provide step three. It's only the fate of the world on the line, should be interesting.

Posted by: oh my on March 31, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Occam's razor. Simplest explanation is that Obama's selling out to the oil industry. Probably means cap-and-trade is dead too, even though it's totally inadequate.

Posted by: TJ on March 31, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Hi, Florida here. Yer not drilling off our coast. seriously, yer not fucking drilling for oil off our coast. The tourism biz is bad enough without hundred-square-mile oil slicks. fuck off. and we mean that.

Posted by: kordo on March 31, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, the President is just taking from the Republicans. The Republicans have made it clear they want to destroy the President and take back power. They actually don't care about issues. So "drill, baby drill" is a campaign slogan they can no longer use (well, they can, but it will have less credibility given today's announcement). I doubt there will be a climate bill. Can someone give me the names of the 60 Senators who are going to vote for it? Good on Kerry to keep fighting for it, but to me all of this points to nothing happening on climate and the GOP being deprived of their energy campaign issues. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: beachmom on March 31, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

"If you look at the electoral Red/Blue map, it appears areas of Red are only being opened. This is a diabolical plan to pollute the Red states shorelines when an oil spill may occur."

Posted by: flyonthewall

I think this is close to the truth. State Republcians like Bob McDonnell have been able to promote opening oil drilling off their state's shores because they have always had the Federal restrictions to hide behind, so they got both the 'Drill Baby Drill' and 'NIMBY' votes. NOW, there is no Federal cover, and those like Bobby McD actually has to go to the NIMBY voters with his great accomplishment, oil rigs off their coasts.

Posted by: Lance on March 31, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

I think this helps to keep a few Repubs, or maybe just Lindsey Graham and the Maine sisters, on board with an energy bill--as well as a short term win by taking away one of the Repub talking points.
Although I'm done getting upset with Obama over one move in a long game, before I see how everything plays out, and as with the AHA, I know that can take a while with many ups and downs and "wtf is he thinking" moments.
The end result might not be a progressive's dream, but probably a whole lot better than the alternative.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on March 31, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

What does Obama get? Well he's systematically stealing Republican talking points. You've heard of the repeal trap? Meet the offshore drilling trap.

The individual insurance mandate, insurance exchanges, the COIN strategy in Afghanistan, tax cuts, deficit cuts, school fixes, bank regulation, and now offshore drilling.

Republicans are going to run on nothing, be the party of nothing in November. As for whether this policy will do any damage, I'd wait to see the details, personally.

But recognize first & foremost that you can't set policy at all if you're voted out of Congress.

Posted by: Jordan on March 31, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Obama has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy."

Obama has effectively given the fossil fuel and nuclear power corporations what they wanted on energy: expanded offshore oil drilling, billions of taxpayer dollars squandered on the "clean coal" hoax and the nuclear power boondoggle.

Who needs Republicans when Obama and Kerry are falling over themselves to embrace the McCain/Palin 2008 "energy plan"?

Steve Benen wrote: "What is he getting in return?"

He already got the campaign contributions.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I'll believe it when I know the oil is actually being pumped. Until then, this is an empty proposal...words, just meaningless Obama words. It's easy to say the areas are being opened, but Obama knows his environmentalists and legions of litigators are guaranteed to forestall any drilling ad infinitum.

Cheap political ploy, pure and simple.

Posted by: marybel on March 31, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Cheap political ploy, pure and simple.

Unlike, for example, telling your slack-jawed Fox-viewing followers that drilling for U.S. oil will provide energy independence, bring oil prices down and keep them safe from scary Ayrabs.

You just got gamed in the cheap political ploys arena. Deal with it.

Posted by: Mart on March 31, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

In exchange for what? In exchange for this...

"House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed the president's plan as not going far enough in opening up U.S. waters for exploration."

Awesome.

Posted by: Remarkulus on March 31, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Has the political geography gone unnoticed? States effected are predominately red, while states exempted are blue. Is the president saying, "you can have what you want and we will protect our own?"

Posted by: hapinoregon on March 31, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Hold the chip until you can negotiate it away" is inside the Beltway thinking. Outside the Beltway thinking is "Enact a popular policy, earn political capital as a leader, spend it to get what you want in Congress."

Posted by: Scooby Dude on March 31, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps The President is actually doing what he thinks is best for the country. I happen to agree. There is no good reason to not increase the number of operating nuclear power plants and there is no good reason not to use the oil available off shore. We need it. The economy needs it and anyone who refuses to see the need is blind. Screw the anti-industrialist who hate human progress and happiness. Thank you Mr. President for doing what is actually in America's interest instead of obeying the anti-industrialist wackos.
Jed hughett

Posted by: Jed Hughett on April 1, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I’d be inclined to okay with you one this subject. Which is not something I typically do! I love reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!

Posted by: Ardelle Milord on December 12, 2010 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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