WASHINGTON — Reversing a ban on oil drilling off most U.S. shores, President Barack Obama announced an expansive new policy on Wednesday that could put new oil and natural gas platforms in waters along the southern Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and part of Alaska.
Speaking at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, Obama said, "This is not a decision that I've made lightly." He spoke of the expected outcry from disappointed environmentalists by saying he had studied the issue for more than a year and concluded it was the right call given the nation's voracious thirst for energy and the need to produce jobs and keep American businesses competitive.
"We're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources," Obama said, standing in front of a Navy F-18 fighter scheduled to fly on Earth Day with a half-biomass fuel mix.
The president said his decision is part of a broader strategy that also includes expanding the production of nuclear power and other clean energy sources, to "move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy."
"The only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and the long run," the president said. "To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake."