Ocean Protection, Ocean Energy
September 07 2012

Offshore Drilling: Obama Vs. Romney

by Pete Stauffer

With the Presidential election just around the corner, let’s take a look at the respective positions of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney on offshore drilling. What would each candidate’s Presidency mean for oil and gas development off our nation’s coasts? We’re so glad you asked!

In June, 2012, the Obama Administration released its Five Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil & Gas Leasing Plan for 2012-2017. The plan concentrates the majority of lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, with five lease sales in the western Gulf of Mexico; five lease sales in the central Gulf; and two lease sales in the eastern Gulf. The plan also includes three lease sales off Alaska including the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, a decision opposed by many environmental groups given the likely challenges with spill prevention and response in the Arctic Ocean. The Obama 5 Year Plan does provide full protection for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from lease sales over the next 5 years, a decision strongly supported by the Surfrider Foundation. However, the Obama Administration has proposed seismic surveys off the Atlantic coast to assess potential oil and gas resources, which could set the stage for future energy development in the region. The President frames his position on offshore drilling as part of an ‘All-of-the-Above’ strategy for American energy that includes fossil fuels, renewable sources, and research & development.

According to his campaign’s Energy Plan released on August 23, Romney would take steps to dramatically increase domestic energy production if elected President. This would include the establishment of a new five year offshore leasing plan that “aggressively opens new areas for development” beginning with those off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas – places where offshore drilling has not occurred. Romney has also stated that he supports increasing exploration and drilling in the Arctic Ocean beyond what’s included in the Obama five year plan. Romney would also set minimum production targets for each five year leasing plan, requiring annual reports to Congress on progress in reaching goals and implementation of new policies to compensate for any shortfall. It’s also notable that Romney’s energy plan includes scant focus on renewable sources and conservation, and fails to address the issue of climate change and related impacts. According to a USA Today report, Mitt Romney’s campaign and a super PAC backing him have received more than $15 million in donations from oil, coal and other energy interests, many of which would benefit from Romney’s energy plan.

Both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney support the expansion of offshore drilling in U.S. waters. However, Romney supports a more aggressive approach that would include significant increases in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic, as well as new drilling off the Atlantic coast and potentially elsewhere.