U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday plans for a broad expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling in an effort to win Republican support for new proposals to fight climate change.
Obama, a Democrat, said his administration would consider new areas for drilling in the mid and south Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, while "studying and protecting sensitive areas in the Arctic."
The president, who needs bipartisan support to pass a bill that would set limits on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, cautioned that expanding drilling was not a catch-all answer to U.S. energy challenges.
"Drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and ... for the sake of the planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now," Obama said in prepared remarks.
"I know that we can come together to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation that will foster new industries and millions of new jobs protecting our planet and helping us become more energy independent," he said.
For more than 20 years, drilling was banned in most offshore areas of the United States outside the Gulf of Mexico because of concerns that spills could harm the environment.
The administration has been weighing the pros and cons of offshore drilling since it took office and put the brakes on a Bush-era proposal that called for drilling along the U.S. East Coast and off the coast of California.
An Interior Department official said the department will conduct the first new offshore oil and gas sale in the Atlantic Ocean in more than two decades as part of a lease sale 50 miles (80 km) off the coast of Virginia.
Republicans criticized the plan, saying it keeps the biggest U.S. offshore energy resources from being developed.
"Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking 'Where are the jobs?'" said House of Representatives Republican Leader John Boehner.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 31 Mart 2010, 18:52