Too little, too late, too clever and for the wrong reasons. That's a good way to describe President Obama's decision to allow a little offshore drilling.
Of course, most of the environmentalist base of the Democratic Party sees it the other way around: too much, too soon (since "never" is their preferred timeline), too dumb but for the right reasons.
Obama justified his decision to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic and some coastal regions of northern Alaska on the grounds that it would create jobs and serve as a "bridge" to the carbon-free Brigadoon we've long been promised. The reality is that his decision was entirely political. Aiming to win vital Republican support in the Senate for some kind of bipartisan cap-and-trade legislation, he lifted the ban where the polling was in favor of doing so. Sound science, energy policy and economics were the last things on his mind. On that, there's widespread consensus.
Back when oil cost $140 per barrel, President George W. Bush lifted the executive ban on offshore oil drilling. Once elected, Obama quietly reinstated it. Since then, Obama's Interior Department has been doing just about everything it can to slow, hamper and prevent oil and gas exploration in the U.S. and offshore. There's no reason to believe the administration won't keep doing that. Besides, Obama's announcement actually bans more promising oil and gas reserves from exploration than it opens up: nothing in the Pacific, nothing in the western Gulf of Mexico, nothing in southern Alaska.
But there's an unintended irony to Obama's decision, one that he probably has not considered since the passage of health-care reform has only reinforced his ideological hubris. The welfare state that Obama is trying to create needs money, desperately. The federal debt is currently around $12 trillion, and the Congressional Budget Office expects it to hit $20 trillion by 2020. Throw in the unfunded liabilities -- i.e. promises to citizens -- in our existing entitlements system and the debt creeps over $100 trillion.
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