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Domestic energy policy - then and now

October 15, 2010 - Mike Maneval
A lengthy examination Tuesday by two Washington Post reporters into the Obama administration's handling of a plan to open more seafloor to off-shore drilling, which was shelved after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico only to return several days ago, contains many insights.

Reporters Michael Leahy and Juliet Eilperin say a Democratic U.S. representative from Arizona, Raul Grijalva, had been considered for the post of secretary of the interior and tasked with developing a politically-feasible energy plan that would include expansion of drilling. Grijalva, however, was skeptical of any expansion before underlying problems exposed in the Minerals Management Services - both the regulatory agency that inspects off-shore drilling rigs and the agency where inspectors were implicated in accepting bribes from the industry they were supposed to supervise - were rectified and trust in oversight restored or at least improved.

President Barack Obama instead chose Colorado's U.S. Senator, Kenneth Salazer, who had told the president, according to Leahy and Eilperin, that he was interested primarily in "balancing the developing of conventional fuels, including oil and gas, both offshore and onshore" with "opening up the whole new world of renewable energy."

The White House then pursued a strategy, in Leahy and Eilperin's words, of "dangling" increased drilling for oil off-shore before Republicans and pro-drilling centrist Democrats in return for support for the "cap and trade" plan to reduce carbon pollution. In the words of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., "selling the gulf" for the support of ultimately one Republican, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. A Republican who later reversed course, leaving the "cap and trade" proposal with no Republican support. Graham, for his part, told Leahy and Eilperin the President had pursued the right strategy. " 'I think the president had the right formulation,' Graham said of the prospective dealmaking. He paused for effect. 'And then the oil spill,' " their article reads.

And now, the spill is stopped - after roughly three months, questions remain over how well Grijalva's concerns on oversight have been heeded, the "cap and trade" proposal Obama and Salazar prioritized is no closer to reality ... but as of Tuesday the temporary moratorium on drilling has been lifted early.


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