Drill, Baby, Drill: Obama Opens Up Offshore Drilling and Exploration

Soon after taking office, Obama reversed orders issued by the Bush administration in its final months that would have expanded offshore drilling. The Obama administration announced in January 2009 that it would withdraw oil and gas leases on 103,225 acres that were offered on 77 parcels of public land for drilling near national parks in Utah.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also scrapped leases for oil-shale development on federal land in Colorado and Wyoming, and rejected a Bush plan to open areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil drilling.

But under scrutiny from lawmakers and environmental and industry groups, the Obama administration undertook a policy review last year to figure out how the country's energy supply could be diversified. And the Department of Interior still went ahead with auctions of drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico.

In June 2008, then-Sen. Obama told reporters in Jacksonville, Fla., "When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida's coasts. That's how we can protect our coastline and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good."

In July 2008, he said, of lifting moratoriums on offshore drilling, that "if there were real evidence that these steps would actually provide real, immediate relief at the pump and advance the long-term goal of energy independence, of course I'd be open to them. But so far there isn't."

But his Republican opponents -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and perhaps even more so, his running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with her "drill, baby, drill" chant -- used the issue to paint Obama as a stubborn ideologue.

But by August, then-Sen. Obama signaled that he was willing to support legislation that included offshore drilling as part of a bipartisan compromise.

"What I don't want is for the best to be the enemy of the good," he said at the time. "If we can come up with a genuine bipartisan compromise, in which I have to accept some things I don't like and the Democrats have to accept some things they don't like, when it's actually moving us in the direction of energy independence, I'm open to that. What I will not do is support a plan that suggests that drilling is the answer to our energy problems."

By September 2008, Obama was saying an energy strategy meant increasing domestic production and off-shore drilling.

In his State of the Union address, he said a sound energy policy "means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development."

The president today also announced that in order to save taxpayer dollars, the administration is doubling the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet of cars as they reduce the number of cars and trucks used by the government overall.

On Thursday, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency will sign the final rule establishing new requirements for vehicles' fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions.

ABC News' Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.

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