Photo: eschipul via Flickr/CC BY-SA
Aaaaand we're back. Back to the regularly scheduled programming of offshore drilling, dominant oil companies calling the shots, and the same backwards-looking energy policy we had before BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 men and inflicting upon the Gulf of Mexico the worst environmental disaster the US has ever seen. Yes, the Obama administration has announced today that it is lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, and barring a few tightened safety regulations, it's time to welcome back the status quo for US energy production. Why, it's almost as if nothing even happened!The AP reports:
Congressional officials told The Associated Press that Salazar planned to lift the moratorium, on the condition that companies would first have to meet a a host of new safety regulations. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak ahead of the official announcement. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said earlier Tuesday that the government is close to having the plans in place to lift the ban that was imposed after the massive Gulf oil spill.The moratorium was set to expire on November 30th, but it appears the Obama administration wants to get offshore drilling back on the table before the November elections, to politically assist to conservative democrats in oil-producing states who are being attacked for their association with the moratorium. So, the ban is being lifted this week, evidently primarily for political reasons.
The Obama administration has already devised a set of upgraded security requirements for new drilling, and adhering to those would be a requisite for any company looking to begin drilling from now on. The rules include ensuring proper tests are completed on blowout preventers and proving that companies have adequate plans to contain major spills should one occur.
Never mind that these rules, or variants of them, were already essentially in place -- they just were laughably enforced. And yes, Obama did divide up the corrupted Minerals & Management Service, the agency charged with overseeing drilling operations, but it still remains to be seen whether his new bureaucratic outfit will be up to the task of properly regulating drilling. And considering that Obama never really used the spill as grounds to campaign for expanding clean energy, or as a reason to rally support for climate legislation, this concludes, with a whimper, the president's truly disappointing handling of a disastrous event that should have presented a clear indictment of our current dysfunctional energy policy. But instead, nothing's changed.
Welcome back, offshore drilling.