White House executive order to widen offshore drilling

Continuing to peel away layers of environmental regulation, President Trump signed an executive order Friday intending to open areas currently prohibited from offshore oil exploration.

Last week’s White House action could conceivably unlock areas of the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico to deep sea drilling.

“We’re opening it up,” the president remarked as he signed the order. “Today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs. It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban and directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to allow responsible development of off-shore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers,” 

Titled the “Presidential Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” the order aims to increase American energy self-sufficiency and create jobs through a mandated review of the federal government’s 5-year plan which outlines offshore areas are allowed to be drilled. Waters off the southeastern U.S. coast that have been closed-off from oil exploration for decades could ostensibly be reopened.

Despite the move, some questioned the worth in face of the fact domestic onshore oil production has catapulted in recent years, driving down the demand for offshore leases.  Data shows petroleum firms’ investments on leases in the Gulf of Mexico dropped 75 percent between 2012–’15.

“Why on earth would someone choose to push drilling in the riskiest and most expensive places on the planet when the current oil glut will make such ventures unprofitable for the foreseeable future,” asked David Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship.

In contrast, explaining the move as a long-term boost to the petroleum industry, one unnamed official with U.S. oil and gas trade association American Petroleum Institute told Reuters:

“In order to meet U.S. energy needs, it is important to keep options open for the long term, so industry can start planning for and determining where the best prospects are and then make those investments the global economy will require over time.”

Notwithstanding some optimism generated in the energy sector, the White House expects a court battle from environmental activists.

 

[Reuters] [AP] [Photo courtesy NBC News]