A Slippery Slope for Obama and Big Oil


By Stefanie Schappert
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report

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Just days after the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party rammed through what could be touted as the most unpopular bill in the history of the U.S., the President made an announcement that shocked many of his far-left supporters: he agreed to open up the East Coast waters from Delaware to Florida, as well as northern Alaska, to oil and gas exploration. According to one report by MSNBC, five to 10 years worth of oil could be possibly freed up. If you paid attention during the presidential campaign, Obama’s announcement wasn’t actually so shocking. Then-senator Obama, feeling the pressure from those wanting to “Drill Baby Drill,” told supporters that he was open to drilling off the Atlantic coast if it was part of a broader alternative-energy plan.

The political ramifications of Obama’s announcement, however, could have various effects. Is this a shrewd move to the center, an attempt to prove to the American people that the President isn’t a crazy lefty trying to bring about socialistic change to our free-market society? Does he aim to mend fences with pissed-off Republicans still smarting from the healthcare debacle?

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We also know the 2010 midterm elections are a big worry for many Democrats now that the healthcare bill has passed Congress without the support of many constituents. There are also about 36 gubernatorial races up for grabs; without some sort of middle-ground strategy by the Democrats, many of those races could easily go Republican. It would make sense for Obama to want to appeal to independents, who mostly categorize themselves as being in the center. And we know independents are more likely to determine the outcome of an election more than straight-party voters.

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Still, Obama’s announcement is bold because it puts him in danger of angering his core liberal base (albeit, one that only makes up 20 percent of the country), as it pushes many environmentalist groups against the wall. It’s no secret that many hardcore liberals are already mad at him for abandoning a fully government-run single-payer healthcare system. They feel he abandoned his vow to fight for gay marriage (though he’s pushing Congress to repeal the military’s controversial “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy); he’s still struggling to close Gitmo; and he’s no closer to an official White House stance on where to try the Sept. 11 terrorists and the accused Christmas underwear bomber. Now, it seems, he’s added a whole new group of Obama supporters — environmentalists against exploration and drilling in the U.S. — into the angry mix.

On the other side of the pendulum, many moderate independents feel Obama’s policy is a drop in the bucket and doesn’t go far enough. They accuse him of creating a big ruse and trying to play both sides of the political coin. They say the new policy is weak and, in the end, will barely tap the potential for offshore oil and gas reserves. The facts support them, too. For example, Obama specifically leaves in place a ban on offshore drilling along the West Coast. But it’s the West Coast where most offshore exploration has already been done — oil reserves off the Southern California coast is estimated in the billions of barrels, compared to the millions of barrels we might get from the East Coast and northern Alaska. One Ph.D. reports that “although modern oil exploration methods are better than previous ones, they still may have only a 10% success rate for finding new oil fields.” If we want to create jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil as soon as possible, I’d say to go with the sure thing.

Drill Obama Drill
As for the environmentalists, why such long faces? They got their wish: there will be no exploration on the West Coast or on Bristol Bay in southern Alaska, some of the most fertile areas for exploration and eventual drilling. Obama threw them a bigger bone than he threw to the Republicans. What I don’t get is their complete refusal to compromise. The U.S. is so technologically advanced — and regulations are so great — that any oil we drill for off the coast of our country would be infinitely cleaner than oil from the Middle East, Third World countries and dictatorial regimes with no safeguards in place. And can someone explain to me why, last August, Obama agreed to finance a $2 billion offshore drilling project in Brazil while we are hurting for jobs here? Is it just a coincidence that one of the largest shareholders in the Brazilian company involved is none other than a hedge fund run by lefty buddy and Democratic bankroller George Soros? Hmmm.

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Environmentalists have been arguing about the ramifications of oil development, and its negative effect on our natural surroundings, for years. Take the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, commonly called the Alaska Pipeline. The controversy began in the 1970s with environmental groups trying to block its development, worrying about earthquakes, inflated costs, and, more important, the idea that one million caribou would be displaced, essentially messing with the delicate balance of natural wildlife in the region. It turned out that after all those cries of apocalyptic disaster, a PBS special in 2006 showed proof that the pipeline had no negative effect on the caribou. In fact, the caribou population was shown to be higher and healthier than expected. PBS also proved that the pipeline created thousands of jobs and currently produces close to 20 percent of our domestic petroleum. I mean, even though all the liberals hate Sarah Palin, you can’t argue that she doesn’t loves her land and nature in Alaska. If she’s for drilling, there must be something to it. As for the threat of oil spills, even with Hurricane Katrina, none of the wells off the coast of Louisiana spilled a drop of oil. Almost all of the oil spills occurring in U.S. waters since the 1960s have been caused by tanker accidents or leaking sea vessels.

So why are we continuously paying petrodollars to countries that hate us for their own failures, to dictators who line their own pockets — and the pockets of terror groups plotting to destroy us — while their citizens have the bare minimum? We could end the dearth of jobs and get us out of this no-end-in-sight recession and provide for ourselves — which, ironically, is what we’re always trying to teach developing nations to do. We have the ability to actually control how drilling is done, using the most advanced technologies, and provide way more environmental protections than any other country on the planet. I just don’t get it. Are we willing to sacrifice our standing in the world because we’re afraid maybe, possibly, to lose a few good scenic spots? If Obama really wants to reduce our dependence on foreign oil while developing our own — and providing jobs to thousands — he should get some cajones and do it right.

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Stefanie Schappert is a freelance journalist based in New York. Credits include NY1 News, Fox News Channel, and Vaccinated TV. She has worn many hats inside the newsroom: producing, writing and editing. She also has been out in the field covering stories behind the camera as well as producing and reporting. Schappert’s conservative viewpoint came into sharp focus following the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the resulting political climate. While working on the acclaimed NY1 documentary 9/11: A Day In Time, Schappert quickly embraced her role as the wife of a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier (Green Beret) deployed to the Middle East. This former NFL Cheerleader and classically trained dancer is known to hang out with quite a liberal crowd and has been the buzzkill during many a dinner party.

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