Category Archives: Obama

Beach residents voice concerns

By Alex Ruoff • Staff Writer • April 1, 2010

BETHANY BEACH — Alan Muller is worried the federal government’s decision to open mid-Atlantic offshore waters to oil and gas exploration could negatively impact the quality of life for those who live along the Maryland and Delaware coast.

"Just look at the (Gulf of Mexico), where there’s a lot of oil production; it’s a mess," said Muller, a spokesman for Green Delaware, a Wilmington-based public health organization. "I think it’s something that needs to be looked at closely so you can see all the impacts it could have."

The move, announced by the Obama administration Wednesday, ends a long-standing moratorium on the search for gas and oil along the nation’s eastern seaboard, where researchers say production is possible, but narrow.

"Anything that goes up would have to be 50-100 miles off the coast and, as far as development goes, production there is limited," said Robert Diaz, a marine science professor at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., who held a conference on the subject in December 2008.

According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the federal agency responsible for managing oil and gas resources along the nation’s outer continental shelf, the mid-Atlantic region contains roughly 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Using 2009 standards, the nation consumes about 20 million barrels of oil and 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily.

Diaz said the impact on the region would be minimal, but felt mainly from transportation of materials and resources, not testing or production.

"If the boats are going to the Chesapeake Bay, then you’ll see it there. … Likewise, if they come down the Delaware Bay, they’ll feel the impact," he said. "That’s what you’ll see from the shore."

Al McMillian, a Frederick resident, said he regularly visits Ocean City to fish and escape the kind of water traffic seen in commercial-heavy areas of the Chesapeake Bay.

"The big boats are why I think most people come to this part of the beach," he said. "You don’t really see them as much as you would on the bay."

The announcement spurred promotion of alternative energy sources from environmental agencies like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and elected officials. Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman said the country should look toward alternative energy sources rather than fossil fuels to alleviate its dependence on foreign oil, which contributes to more than 97 percent of total production worldwide.

"Here in Delaware, we are pushing forward on the nation’s first offshore wind project," he said. "We believe that our oceans offer the promise of clean, renewable energy that will create jobs, cut our greenhouse gas emissions and move us toward energy independence."

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Activists: Obama drill plan is betrayal

"Today’s announcement is unfortunately all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama’s promises of change, a year of ‘deliberation,’ and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own,"

‘Clean energy’ talk not convincing; natural gas a future bridge?

President Barack Obama on Wednesday wrapped himself in green themes and even imagery – including a fighter jet that uses a plant-based fuel – but that wasn’t enough to convince any environmental groups that his plans for offshore drilling were a fair compromise on the path to a clean energy future.

While Republicans criticized the proposed new leases in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic as limited, environmental activists were as vigorously opposed – but for reasons having to do with oil spills and carbon emissions tied to climate change.

For many activists, the sense was one of betrayal.

"Today’s announcement is unfortunately all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama’s promises of change, a year of ‘deliberation,’ and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own," said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has made a name for itself by filing endangered species lawsuits.

"Drilling our coasts will doing nothing to lower gas prices or create energy independence," added Michael Brune, who recently took over as director of the Sierra Club. "It will only jeopardize beaches, marine life, and coastal tourist economies, all so the oil industry can make a short-term profit."

Instead, environmental groups said, greater effort should be placed on renewable energy, improving vehicle mileage and making other energy uses, from refrigerators to home heaters, more energy efficient.

‘Clean energy’ pitch
For more than 20 years, drilling was banned in most offshore areas, except for the Gulf of Mexico, because of concerns that spills could harm the environment.
The administration has been weighing the pros and cons of offshore drilling since it took office and put the brakes on a Bush-era proposal that called for drilling along the U.S. East Coast and off the coast of California.

The president’s speech at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland was designed to get Republican support for the energy and climate bill languishing in the Senate. But while the oil industry voiced support, Republicans generally rejected the plans.

The Environmental Defense Fund, which has worked with industry on projects to reduce pollution, said it understood that Obama needed to reach out to Republicans "after hearing from key senators that it’s a necessary step to succeed in passing climate and energy legislation in the Senate."

But Steve Cochran, the group’s climate director, added that "now it’s time for the supporters of new drilling and an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy policy to step forward and support comprehensive legislation, including a limit on carbon pollution. And the president must provide the leadership and drive to make that happen."

Obama and top aides on Wednesday emphasized a "clean energy" strategy that continues to use oil and coal while also developing less polluting and less carbon-intensive energy sources like solar, wind and natural gas.

"The president knows we cannot drill our way to energy independence," Carol Browner, Obama’s czar for energy and climate issues, told reporters.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, whose agency manages those offshore areas, said the strategy represents "a new direction that will balance both development as well as conservation."

Bigger future for gas?
Natural gas, which contains much less carbon than petroleum and coal, could become part of that balance. Already used to fuel most modern power plants, natural gas could even become a major vehicle energy source, since plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles have to draw their electricity from power plants.

Indeed, the federal government estimates that:

  • Gulf of Mexico waters contain 161 trillion to 207 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, economically recoverable natural gas resources, and 36 billion to 41.5 billion barrels of undiscovered, economically recoverable oil.
  • Atlantic coast waters hold 37 trillion cubic feet of gas and nearly 4 billion barrels of oil.
  • Pacific Coast waters hold 18 trillion cubic feet of gas and 10.5 billion barrels of oil.

To put that in context, the United States imports about 2 billion barrels of oil a year from OPEC nations and is expected to import 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from all sources this year, according to the Energy Department.

Obama did not dwell on those numbers in his speech Thursday. But he did tout research into "homegrown fuels" like the mix used for the F/A-18 Super Hornet being tested by the Navy. Its biofuel blend uses the camelina sativa plant – a domestic, renewable, non-food source.

"This Navy fighter jet – called the Green Hornet – will be flown for the first time in just a few weeks, on Earth Day," he said beaming. "If tests go as planned, it will be the first plane ever to fly faster than the speed of sound on a fuel mix that’s half biomass."