The White House has lifted the deepwater drilling moratorium imposed after a ruptured BP well began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico in April. President Obama was under intense pressure to rescind the ban, particularly from energy executives and politicians in Gulf states heavily dependent on oil-industry jobs. But administration officials said they only decided to lift the ban early — it was supposed to last until Nov. 30 — once they felt confident that the rules in place would prevent another blowout. Is this a smart move, or is Obama risking another disaster in order to appease his critics? (Watch a PBS discussion about the moratorium's end)
A welcome decision and not a moment too soon: President Obama was right to lift this "overly broad, economically destructive ban," say the editors of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new standards to prevent a repeat of the BP disaster are certainly a comfort. "But the economic pain caused by the moratorium won't end until actual drilling resumes," and for that to happen — in deep or shallow water — the government will have to streamline the "cumbersome" new permitting process.
"Obama administration needs to move forward on Gulf drilling"
The administration might be moving too fast: The deepwater drilling ban was supposed to "allow the oil industry and regulators time to revamp drilling regulations, safety equipment, and contingency plans for deepwater drilling," says Caitlin Dickson at The New Republic. But energy executives and local politicians complained that the "costs of the ban," measured in lost jobs, were the main concern. If the administration is merely caving to them and rescinding it "prematurely," this is a mistake.
"So much for the drilling ban"
This is really about boosting Democrats in the midterms: Even Obama's "own hand-picked commission" said two months ago that a "blanket moratorium" was "never necessary in the first place," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. But Obama insisted more research was needed. The only thing that has changed since then is that, with Democrats facing a "shellacking in the midterms on jobs and the economy," it has finally dawned on the president that "an executive order that put tens of thousands of jobs at risk" was probably not helping anybody.
"Obama to end Gulf drilling ban early"