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Don't Bet on Obama's Plan to Drill in the Atlantic

4/10/2015, 2:30 p.m. | Updated on 4/10/2015, 12:39 p.m.
President Obama's energy policies have irked many voters. So to win public support, Obama recently promised to open up areas ...
President Obama's energy policies have irked many voters. So to win public support, Obama recently promised to open up areas of the Atlantic to drilling. But the promise, as Drew Johnson of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance explains is just hot air Courtesy Photo

— President Obama's energy policies have been a debacle since his first day in office. Now, with Americans dubious of his schemes after being burned by his war on coal, stifling environmental regulations, and refusal to allow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the president is pulling a new tactic from his bag of tricks in hopes of winning back public support: The old switcheroo.

In February, when the president announced his draconian new policies that would block the production of as much as 30 billion barrels of oil off the coast of Alaska and ban future generations from recovering an estimated 10 billion more sitting beneath Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he included a trade-off meant to help American energy production efforts elsewhere. Or so it seemed.

In his compromise, Obama promised to open up areas of the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Georgia to new opportunities for offshore oil and natural gas leasing…sometime between 2017 and 2022…maybe. That same area had previously been approved for energy exploration before, but the president killed that plan in 2010. There's little reason to believe that any drilling will occur in the region this time around, either.

Under the trade-off, energy producers lose the opportunity to begin extracting 40 billion barrels of oil from Alaska now in exchange for the hope that, years from now, the federal government might grant offshore leases to drill in an area off the Atlantic coast that, even using the most hopeful estimates, holds less than 5 billion barrels. And that's assuming the government grants the leases necessary to perform the drilling.

To make matters worse, it's entirely possible -- likely, even -- that the government will renege on the whole deal, either by refusing to offer lease rights to the Atlantic oil reserves, or by blocking permits needed for energy exploration. If such a bait-and-switch occurred, it would be devastating to America's economy and our nation's energy independence. But it would be par for the course with this administration.

At the same time Mr. Obama argues the need for American energy production, he has reduced the number of oil and natural gas leases offered for sale by the federal government by 55 percent. What few federal lands remain open for drilling under the president are so burdened by regulations and mired "in red tape that oil production has decreased by six percent under President Obama's watch over the last 5 years," according to the Institute for Energy Research.

Mr. Obama's decision to cut off ANWR and chunks of the Alaskan coast from drilling, along with the administration's refusal to open up the Pacific and much of the Gulf of Mexico to energy exploration, needlessly puts the fate of our country's energy needs in the hands of other -- often unfriendly -- nations, while unnecessarily increasing energy costs and preventing new American jobs.

By asking Americans to give up access to billions of barrels of oil in Alaska today for the hope that 5 or 6 years down the road a small portion of the Atlantic coast will be the solution to our country's energy needs, the president is trying to sell a pig in a poke. When it comes to American energy independence and economic stability, our country doesn't need the president's flimsy promises about what might happen in the future. We need to get drills in the ground today.

Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to limited, responsible government.