Trump’s win rekindles debate on offshore oil drilling
The controversy over drilling for oil in the Atlantic Ocean has been reignited by the election of Donald Trump, and environmentalists and coastal businesses say it could be the first major fault line that divides them from the new president.
The Obama administration has moved to restrict access to offshore oil drilling leases in the Atlantic, as well as off Alaska. Commercial oil production has never happened off the East Coast — and environmentalists consider that a major victory during Obama’s tenure.
But President-elect Trump has said that he intends to use all available fuel reserves for energy self-sufficiency — and that it’s time to be opening up offshore drilling.
While supporters say that expanded oil exploration is poised to become one of Trump’s signature accomplishments, environmentalists and other opponents see oil drilling policy as a looming conflict. Jacqueline Savitz, vice president of the ocean conservationist group Oceana, said she fears a return to the hard-fought struggles environmentalists faced with the previous Republican administration.
“We’re hoping we’re not about to fall back into the ‘drill, baby, drill’ way of thinking,” she said. “Offshore drilling in the Atlantic is not a good investment.”
The American Petroleum Institute, a key voice of the oil and gas industries, has long said more aggressive drilling is needed for the U.S. to remain a world leader in energy production. The group accused Obama in May of lacking a long-term “vision” for fossil fuels extraction; its leaders say that Trump’s presidency represents a new dawn and that they intend to hold him to his word about fossil fuels.
“As a candidate, President-elect Trump pledged to pursue an energy approach that would include opening federal lands for oil and gas production including offshore areas,” said institute spokesman Michael Tadeo.
Early signs suggest Trump will make good on his plans for more aggressive drilling. One of his favorites to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a prominent rejecter of the scientific consensus on climate change. He is a longtime ally of the petroleum industry and a critic of the agency he would lead.
Trump’s favorites for energy secretary include Oklahoma oil billionaire Harold Hamm and drilling proponent Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.
The Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment. Trump has said that it’s “incredible that we’re going slow on drilling,” and that he supports coastal drilling when it “can be done responsibly.”