Monday, February 28, 2011

Obama Nixes Safe Drilling

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Houston this weekend talking with oil executives who are eager to start drilling again in the Gulf of Mexico. That may sound like progress, but after the meeting Salazar said that nothing had changed. He was not ready to approve any new drilling.

Despite everything that energy companies have done to devise advanced containment systems, Salazar is unwilling to issue a single new permit. Systems constructed by the nonprofit Marine Well Containment Company and other entities are now able to handle a flow equal or greater than that experienced during the Deepwater Horizon accident last summer. But that's not enough for Salazar, who stated that even the most advanced systems have "limitations on water depth and barrel-per-day containment capacity."

Well, yes. Any system that could be devised would have limitations on depth and per-barrel capacity. But that's not the point, as Mr. Salazar must know. The question is whether the new systems are able to handle the sorts of accident that might actually take place. Not the worst scenario that someone from the Interior Department could dream up. Combined with safely protocols now in place, the new containment equipment can do just that.

So why no permits for new drilling? It appears that the Obama administration is more interested in kowtowing to environmental donors in advance of the 2012 election than it is in controlling energy prices. Even with a federal court  order to decide on new drilling in the Gulf by March 20, the Obama administration remains obdurate.

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