Obama swings back to ideological middle with drilling plan
President to expand offshore oil exploration after supporting moratorium during campaign
He once criticized his rival for supporting it out of political expediency, only to back it later after determining it was the politically clever thing to do.
In a move that’s sure to frustrate progressives and environmentalists, President Obama is preparing to lift the moratorium on offshore oil and natural gas drilling along the Atlantic coastline, the Gulf of Mexico and northern parts of the Alaskan coast.
The New York Times reports that his compromise would permit “oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.” His “plans run through 2017,” the Los Angeles Times adds.
The Washington Post‘s Ben Pershing described the move as a shift “back to the ideological middle” for the president after “dispensing with a health-reform bill that mostly pleased liberals and alienated nearly all conservatives.”
Obama criticized Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) embrace of the idea in June 2008, alleging it would do nothing to lower gas prices anytime in the foreseeable future.
“What wouldn’t do a thing to lower gas prices is John McCain’s new proposal — a proposal adopted by George Bush as well — to open up Florida’s coast line to offshore drilling,” Obama said in a cleverly staged photo-op with a backdrop of the Florida coast.
“Offshore drilling would not lower gas prices today. It would not lower gas prices tomorrow. It would not lower gas prices this year. It would not lower gas prices five years from now.”
But Obama eventually walked back his opposition, indicating during the presidential debates and later in the State of the Union that he’s open to a compromise on offshore drilling.
His move appears designed largely as an overture to the GOP. The Times describes it as an effort to “help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation.”
But making concessions to conservative ideas has yielded minimal rewards for Obama so far. Scaling back the stimulus package converted only a few Republicans, while extensive compromises on health care reform didn’t produce a single GOP vote.
After health legislation passed, Republican senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and John McCain (AZ) promised there would be no bipartisan cooperation for the rest of the year, claiming Democrats had “poisoned the well.”
But it seems the president is still holding out hope that some of them will come around.
The video is from Obama’s 2008 speech in Jacksonville, FL, uploaded to YouTube.