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By Samuel R. Avro on Feb 15, 2009 with no responses

Obama to use Offshore Areas for Drilling and Renewables

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Although definitely not pro-drilling, the Interior Secretary admitted that the oil and gas industry "will have a seat at the table."

U.S. President Barack Obama seems poised to uphold a Bush administration plan to open more of the country’s coastal waters for oil drilling, as part of a plan to nurture more energy from offshore projects.

“Offshore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy strategy may make sense,” Obama said in a White House interview last week with McClatchy Newspapers.

The president still doesn’t see offshore drilling as a long-term solution – he considers it merely a buffer until the renewable energy projects are put into place.

“In isolation, it’s short-sighted,” Obama said. “I hold out for a more comprehensive strategy before I sign off on whole-hog drilling offshore.”

As crude oil prices skyrocketed to above $147 a barrel in the middle of last year, with gas prices following suit –the national average reached a high of $4.11 a gallon– Congress ended a 1981 drilling ban which covered 85 percent of the offshore areas of the United States.

Public opinion polls overwhelmingly supported the removal of the ban at the time.

However, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar criticized the move as catering to the oil industry more so than taking care of the nation’s energy problem.

“The Bush administration was so intent on opening new areas for oil and gas offshore that it torpedoed offshore renewable energy efforts,” Salazar said last week. “It was a process tilted toward the usual energy players while renewable energy companies and the interests of American consumers and taxpayers were overlooked.”

Others believe that the offshore areas should undergo exploration in an attempt to understand what resources the country holds.

The Obama administration is looking to utilize the coastal waters not just for crude oil drilling, but for renewable energy projects like this offshore wind farm.

“It is entirely possible that America could multiply our undiscovered resources in the Atlantic many times over,” said Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, the top Republican on the House resources panel. “Without further exploration it is impossible to tell exactly what amount of oil and gas reserves the United States is neglecting.”

Although Salazar has an apparent disdain for the petroleum sector, he admitted that the oil and gas industry “will have a seat at the table.” But he reiterated that he and Obama believe that a “drill-only” approach is not sustainable.

Also last week, Salazar ordered a 45-day review of all the potential sources of energy off the coastline.

The Interior Secretary also pledged to develop final rules in the coming months for renewable offshore resources – including wind, waves and tidal currents. That speeds a process he said had been delayed.