Really? What a disappointment:
President Obama will announce new plans to drill for oil and natural gas off America's coasts Wednesday but will rule out drilling off California, Oregon and Washington state through 2017, administration officials say.
Obama's plans will include opening new areas of coastal Virginia and other parts of the mid-Atlantic region, Alaska and the eastern Gulf of Mexico for drilling. But officials say the president will block drilling in Alaska's Bristol Bay, where the George W. Bush administration's drilling plans in 2007 angered environmentalists.
According to administration officials, the plan would:
* Eventually open two-thirds of the eastern Gulf's oil and gas resources for drilling.
* Proceed with drilling off Virginia, provided the project clears environmental and military reviews.
* Study the viability of drilling off the mid- and southern Atlantic coasts.
* Study the viability of drilling in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas — areas hotly defended by environmentalists — but issue no new drilling leases in either sea before 2013.
What's particularly troubling is this:
The Senate is expected to take up a climate bill in the next few weeks — the last chance to enact such legislation before midterm election concerns take over. Mr. Obama and his allies in the Senate have already made significant concessions on coal and nuclear power to try to win votes from Republicans and moderate Democrats. The new plan now grants one of the biggest items on the oil industry’s wish list — access to vast areas of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling.
Win votes from the "party of no"? How did that work out with health care reform?
Maybe the L.A. Times got it wrong. Maybe it's for their April Fool's Day edition.
[UPDATE: Okay, maybe it's not a flip-flop so much. As First Read points out, Obama had talked about possibly doing some off-shore drilling during the campaign, a few months after the footage in the video above]
But if it's not a joke, why would Obama do this? It's not like he's going to win over Republicans.
UPDATE: Via Political Animal, a Hill staffer conjectures that Obama is crazy — crazy like a fox. Obama is starting a push on revising America's energy policy, and he's starting off by co-opting Republican ideas, so he can go for the bigger stuff:
Obama preempts the other side's most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized. It doesn't always work — on the national security/gitmo/Miranda stuff, for example, it turns out the utter extreme positions the right is left with given the centrist ground Obama has staked out turns out to be fairly popular. But even there, the Administration has had reasonable success pushing back on the Miranda nonsense and, because they effectively occupy the tough, pragmatic middle ground, they routinely get cover from non-crazy Republican national security voices, which has helped blunt the force of these issues. (I understand that the term "middle ground" is very slippery and dangerous here, but I basically use it to mean policies that, before the great crazy of 2009 had broad consensus support from large portions of both parties and the Broder/Friedman/Brooks axis.)
At the same time, the policy is a tailored, measured version of what the Republicans have urged — so, yes, the headline is, 'Obama Allows New Offshore Drilling/Presses For Energy Independence,' but at the same time, California/Oregon/Washington where opposition is strongest isn't included, and there are environmentally-friendly changes to Alaska leasing policy announced at the same time. And again, as we've seen before, Republicans are sort of forced to twist and parse, and even to oppose things they have long supported, just because the Administration hasn't gone far enough.
Finally, by announcing the drilling policy without seeking to extract concessions, the Administration makes clear that it is their policy and they are the centrist/flexible/pragmatic ones — making it harder for Republicans to argue that they accomplished this or that they forced Obama to do it. […] [O]f course, if there was any reason to believe that Republicans would engage in normal negotiation/compromise, then I see why holding this back and trading it for support of a broader package would make sense. But does anyone really think there are Republicans to negotiate with on this stuff? And if Republicans do come to the table, Obama still has plenty of room to give, including by simply agreeing to sign a law that makes proposals like this a matter of statute, not executive discretion.
An interesting theory on an interesting political tactic.