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New Moratorium Aside, Obama Wants to Eventually Sanction Deepwater Drilling

Ken Salazar issued the new moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. The six-month “pause” will give time for the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to implement new rules. The Interior Department believes the order will make it past the courts, unlike the previous moratorium.

But this should not be seen as a permanent ban on the deepwater activities. Indeed, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the President would support deepwater drilling after the appropriate investigations and safety checks.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs affirmed on Monday that President Obama remains committed to deepwater drilling once thorough safety checks are conducted on existing sites and the practice is determined to be safe […]

“First and foremost, the president has and continues to believe that we have to be careful with what we are doing given the uncertainty of what happened 84 days ago,” he said. “We know that is not without some economic consequence to the region. But it is imperative we have a sense of what happened before doing this again.”

Gibbs said he thinks the complaints about the moratorium are off-base. The temporary halt would not affect shallow water drilling, he noted. Nor would it alter the administration’s longterm commitment to drilling in deep water, provided that safety checks on the offshore wells come back in the clear.

When he was asked if the president ultimately wants deepwater drilling to continue if it is proven safe, Gibbs replied: “Yes.”

The question shoehorned an “if” in there, at least, but basically Gibbs is saying what we all know: this Adminstration is prepared to trust elites and corporations as long as they make some effort toward the concern of the people who have to live under their decisions. It has animated this White House’s view toward almost everything.

The Obama Administration’s proposed policies attempt to move the nation away from oil and toward cleaner forms of energy. It has focused on battery technology and electrifying the transportation sector. It has promoted renewable energy (along with nuclear and clean coal, it should be noted). But the President has never wavered on the need for domestic oil production as a bridge between the old energy and the new energy economy. This moratorium, should it pass muster in the courts, changes none of that.

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David Dayen

David Dayen