White House Expands Off-Shore Drilling

The White House today announced that it is opening up new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, allowing for development of “more than 75 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources on the [Outer Continental Shelf],” according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“Expanding safe and responsible oil and gas production from the OCS is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home,” Salazar said in a statement.

While the program plans 15 offshore lease sales from 2012 to 2017, it keeps the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards off-limits thus allowing the White House to walk a fine line between pleasing drilling proponents and appeasing environmentalists who oppose increased drilling.

The majority of lease sales are scheduled for areas in the Gulf, “where resource potential and interest is greatest and where infrastructure is most mature,” according to the White House. The program also includes lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic where efforts will be made to “avoid sensitive environmental resources, including areas accessed by Native Alaskans for subsistence uses.”

Obama, who first announced plans to open drilling in the Gulf and off the Alaskan coast last May, has set a target of reducing U.S. oil imports by a third by 2025 through a comprehensive national energy policy, including increased domestic drilling.