President Barack Obama and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took several steps on Thursday to limit offshore drilling for oil in U.S. coastal waters. The measures are based on a 30-day safety review of offshore drilling that Salazar conducted at Obama's direction after the BP Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, killing 11 workers and starting the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Here are the new steps the president announced today at a White House press conference:
- President Obama is extending the moratorium on new deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months while a recently appointed presidential commission investigates the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Secretary Salazar will not consider applications for permits to drill in the Arctic until 2011; that includes the five exploratory wells that Shell Oil was planning to start drilling this summer off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
- Obama cancelled the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia.
- The president suspended action on 33 deepwater exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico.
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President Obama reiterated that he still believes that "domestic oil production is an important part of our overall energy mix" because "we're still years off and some technological breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean energy grid.
"During that time, we're going to be using oil," he said. "And to the extent that we're using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States and not simply rely on imports. That's important for our economy; that's important for economic growth."
But Obama also said that the oil spill in the Gulf should provide a wake-up call about the need to move forward now to develop clean energy.
"More than anything else, this economic and environmental tragedy -and it's a tragedy- underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy," Obama said. "Doing so will not only reduce threats to our environment, it will create a new, homegrown, American industry that can lead to countless new businesses and new jobs."