President Barack Obama faced a backlash from angry environmentalists after announcing he was opening up huge areas of American waters to oil and gas drilling.
The policy was welcomed by cries of “drill, baby, drill” from Republicans repeating a slogan from their 2008 election campaign. Their leaders on Capitol Hill claimed credit for encouraging the move and said they were ready to work with Mr Obama.
Exploration could lead to new oil and natural gas platforms in waters along the southern Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and part of Alaska. Proposed contracts in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, however, were cancelled over environmental concerns.
Drilling could take place as close as 125 miles from Florida. It is already occurring in western and central areas in the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly,” Mr Obama said in anticipation of the outcry from environmentalists, stressing that it would be done “in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America’s natural resources”.
Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity said that the announcement was “all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama – promises of change, a year of ‘deliberation,’ and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own”.
He added: “Rather than bring about the change we need, this plan will further our national addiction to oil and contribute to global warming, while at the same time directly despoiling the habitat of polar bears, endangered whales, and other imperilled wildlife.”
Is there anything Sarah Palin can’t do?