Depending on who you talk to, people either love or hate Obama’s new position on offshore drilling.
The Democratic presidential candidate received support on Monday, Aug. 4 from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) at a press conference in San Francisco for his new energy policy and the decision to let oil companies begin limited offshore oil exploration as part of a bipartisan compromise on energy.
Boxer, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, echoed Obama’s position in allowing oil companies to drill in some 68 million acres on the outer continental shelf, areas already leased by the oil companies. Half of the area lies offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and not in pristine wilderness areas such as Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge.
"Drilling is part of our plan," said Boxer. “But not drilling in moratorium areas."
Obama had staunchly opposed offshore drilling, but last Friday the democratic candidate changed his position by saying that he would be open to some offshore drilling if necessary, as part of a broader energy policy effort.
The switch in position comes at a time when new polls in California and Florida, two states where the opposition of offshore drilling is the strongest in the nation, suggest that the public opinion is shifting under the weight of $4-per-gallon gasoline.
The energy plan, which Obama detailed during a speech in Lansing, Michigan on Monday, also called for releasing 70 million barrels of oil, or about 10 percent of the stockpile, from the country’s strategic petroleum reserve.
The rest of the energy plan is the same as what Obama already outlined in his campaign. According to the 10-year energy plan, a $150 billion national investment would be distributed in clean energy tecnologies, and the implementation of a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The energy plan would also create five million green jobs and would require more electricity to come from renewable resources, promote hybrids and fuel-efficient cars, and give Americans energy rebates— paid by windfall profit taxes on oil companies.
It is still not clear as to how Obama’s endorsement of the compromise will influence the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) dismissed the Senate on Friday for a five-week August recess, but both sides continued to air opinions of the plan.
"We have to drill here and drill now—not wait and see whether there's areas to explore, not wait and see whether there's a package that needs to be put together, but drill here and drill now," said McCain, the Republican candidate on Monday in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.
McCain and many other Republicans disapproved of the release of oil from the country’s strategic reserve, arguing that the stockpile should be saved for genuine emergency. But some critics pointed out that Republicans didn’t put a damper on a similar move when advocated by both presidents Bush in the past, and that even if the government released 10 percent of the reserve for sale, it will be a small amount of oil, and will not pose any risk to our security.
The new dynamics annoyed some environmentalists. The organization Friend of the Earth endorsed Barack Obama earlier this year because he spoke out against the 'gas tax holiday', which environmentalists call a “gimmick that would have done nothing to reduce our dependence on oil."
"That's why it's so disappointing to see Obama now say he would consider expanding offshore drilling, even though he knows it is not a real solution to the energy crisis that is devastating our environment and our economy," Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder said in a statement.