Outside editorial: Another misstep in energy policy

Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News:

President Barack Obama last week announced that future offshore exploration leases in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic coast would not be part of the Interior Department's next five-year offshore drilling plan. That was a shocker, because just months earlier the president had proposed exploration in these areas as part of a broader energy policy.

The president's flip-flop reveals much of what ails the nation's efforts to develop a workable energy policy. After months of rancor, lawmakers and the White House aren't anywhere close to hammering out an approach that balances America's current energy needs with those of future generations. Investments aren't being made quickly enough in forward-thinking clean fuels, nor is this nation developing interim domestic sources to pave the way toward reduced dependence on foreign oil and gas.

The key reason is the politics of energy are thick and in need of a serious reset. An energy and climate bill passed the House in 2009 only to be ignored in the Senate. A revamped bill briefly got new life in the Senate this spring but also eventually bit the dust.

The president's initial overture to expand offshore drilling was a reasonable compromise to garner GOP support for energy and climate legislation. But the administration's latest decision essentially pulls this vital political and economic chit from discussion. In fact, the president's action now looks more like a five-year ban than a five-year plan because it effectively places areas off limits until 2017 and invites drilling activity and jobs to relocate to other parts of the globe.

The incoming Republican majority in the House must press for a multi-faceted energy plan that both recognizes the nation's challenges and can also win Senate and presidential support. Even if Congress and Obama can't agree on a comprehensive plan, they must demonstrate the courage and foresight to move ahead on building nuclear plants, redesigning federal energy subsidies to reward innovation, encouraging more renewable energy resources, such as sun and wind, levying meaningful carbon emission caps and, yes, finding practical ways to safely expand offshore drilling. All of these measures are achievable if national priorities are put ahead of political ill will

Without a doubt, the catastrophic BP Deepwater Horizon spill was avoidable, and the Obama administration was right to impose a moratorium on deepwater drilling and slow approval of shallow-water drilling permits. But the moratorium has been lifted, the Interior Department hasn't issued new deepwater drilling permits and now offshore drilling policy has become needlessly unpredictable.

The country is in a must-win race to secure its energy future, and the stalemates and flip-flops must end now.

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