Obama’s Oil Plan Draws Mixed Local Reviews

S.B. Reaction Ranges from Relief to Disapproval

President Barack Obama’s announcement that he was opening up portions of the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico to new oil lease sales, while allowing none along the Pacific Coast, drew mixed reviews from Santa Barbara politicos and activists. Linda Krop of the Environmental Defense Center released a statement saying that she and other environmentalists were pleased by the news that Obama had effectively revoked plans adopted under the previous administration of former President George W. Bush to open portions of the California coast to new oil leasing.

“We are thrilled that the Federal Government has decided to protect the California Coast against new oil drilling,” she said. Krop stressed that the decision will not have any impact on existing oil leases. Congressmember Lois Capps praised Obama for making “the right decision,” arguing that the amount of oil off the coast is not sufficient to justify the risk involved.

But Dave Davis, executive director for the Community Environmental Council, was more glum in his outlook. He stated the decision to open up new areas to oil leasing off the Atlantic Coast and some places off the coast of Alaska — as well as the intensification of leasing in the Gulf Coast — constituted a move “in exactly the wrong direction.” Davis contended that the Obama administration should have focused its efforts on pursuing new energy sources instead. Besides, the amount of oil believed to be available in all the new territories combined was negligible when compared to the United States’ petro-chemical appetite.

According to geologic reports — some 30 years old — the new lease areas are capable of providing enough oil to satisfy the nation’s demand for three years. Typically, the time required to transition from an oil lease sale to actual production is many years. Any revenues, royalties, jobs, and energy independence associated with prospective new lease sales are likewise many years away. Others were upset with the president’s decision, but for opposite reasons. Joe Armendariz, a Carpinteria city councilmember who runs the Santa Barbara Industrial Association, said he thought the sale was a good idea, but lamented the fact that California was not included.

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