After President Obama's big offshore oil announcement today, I spent the next several hours reading and watching a combination of knee-jerk reactions, enthusiastic official statements and some good old-fashioned GOP dismissive rhetoric. The common thread throughout the articles, posts and radio and TV interviews was that neither side was happy with the move -- which is usually the sign of a good compromise.
The way many liberal and environmental blogs reacted to the news that the administration would open up areas along the southeastern Atlantic coast and the northern coast of Alaska to offshore oil and gas exploration, you'd think Obama had just repealed NEPA, the Clean Water Act and The Wilderness Act all in one fell swoop.
Cries of "shock" and being "screwed over" were being tossed around by environmentalists as if this news came as an absolute surprise. Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, described Obama's announcement as "all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama."
And whether Cummings knows it or not, that is exactly the point: President Obama's position on offshore oil and gas development -- development he insists would have to be done responsibly and for the right reasons -- is nothing new.
"It’s something that he talked about on the campaign trail; it’s something that he’s talked about for a very long time," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton in a press room briefing. "So I think that for people who have followed the President, a lot of this policy isn’t much of a surprise to them.
In fact, Obama has been saying his stance on offshore drilling is nothing new since the summer of 2008 when the GOP was hammering away on the campaign trail with their newfound "Drill Baby Drill" mantra.
"What I will not do," then Senator Obama said in August of 2008, "is to support a plan that suggests this drilling is the answer to our energy problems."
'We need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right'
In today's announcement at Andrews Air Force Base, President Obama emphasized that the decision was a tough one, but he was very explicit about his reasoning behind it: to restore a healthy economy so that we can ultimately move away from fossil fuels.
"Drilling alone can't come close to meeting our long term energy needs," said Obama. "For the sake of our planet and for energy our independence we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now."
"Ultimately we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right; between business leaders and environmentalists; between those who who would claim argue that it is a cure-all and those who say it has no place," said Mr. Obama.
Asked if President Obama's announcement aligned him with the 'Drill Baby Drill' held by many on the right, press secretary Burton said the it was "a lot less 'drill, baby, drill' and more 'drill where it’s responsible, promote efficiency, invest in clean energy, and create jobs of the future.'
"I know that doesn’t fit on a t-shirt quite as well," added Burton, "but that’s a lot more about what President Obama thinks is the right direction for this country."
Photo: Doc Searls via flickr/Creative Commons