Obama greenlights oil and gas drilling in eastern Gulf of Mexico closer to Florida's shores
Wake up and good morning. I doubt President Obama will be saying "Drill, baby, drill" in his opening remarks later this morning. But he is giving the green light to expand oil and natural gas drilling off certain parts of the United States coast, including areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico within 125 miles of Florida's west coast. (AP photo: oil rig in Gulf of Mexico.)
Click here for a New York Times map that shows how much closer drilling may occur to Florida.
We'll know more when the details are announced later this morning. Here's what we know now:
* Obama (AP photo, right) will propose allowing exploration, if a Congressional moratorium is lifted, in the Gulf of Mexico 125 miles (201 kilometers) off the coast of Florida, off the coast of Virginia and open up the rest of the outer continental shelf in the south- and mid- Atlantic to oil exploration. Democratic senators such as Bill Nelson of Florida have said they won’t support a bill providing for unlimited exploration, while U.S. oil companies press to increase domestic exploration.
* The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service estimates that the Gulf of Mexico contains 36 billion to 41.5 billion barrels of undiscovered, economically recoverable oil and 161 trillion to 207 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, economically recoverable natural gas resources.
* The eastern Gulf of Mexico tract that would be offered for lease is adjacent to an area that already contains thousands of wells and hundreds of drilling platforms. The eastern Gulf area is believed to contain as much as 3.5 billion barrels of oil and 17 trillion cubic feet of gas, the richest single tract that would be open to drilling under the Obama plan, according to the New York Times.
The proposal is to be announced today by President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (together, AP photo) at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. This is, of course, just the opening salvo in what will be a battle between energy interests -- which clearly are gaining the upper hand -- and Florida's gulf coast communities and the state's tourism industry which have opposed additional drilling near the Sunshine State.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist