It's tempting for Californians to applaud President Obama's offshore oil drilling proposal, as it spares this state the blight and risk associated with expanded oil exploration in the waters off California's coast. Indeed, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is up for reelection this year, cheered the president's plan in classically parochial terms: "President Obama's decision to block the Bush administration's plan to expand drilling off the California coast," she said in a statement, "recognizes the importance of protecting our state's $23-billion coastal economy, thousands of jobs and the beauty of our state."
True enough, but Obama's plan inflicts those same burdens on other states as part of a package that would exacerbate climate change, deliver negligible economic benefits and double down on America's destructive dependence on fossil fuels.
Surely, Obama understands that, but this plan is geared toward politics, not environmental protection. During the presidential campaign, Obama supported offshore oil drilling in part to bolster his right flank against his oil-fueled opponents, Sen. John McCain and then-Gov. Sarah Palin, Big Oil's dream ticket for high office. Obama's imprecise endorsement of offshore drilling -- he supported the idea in concept without ever saying in which parts of the country he would be inclined to allow it -- alarmed some California supporters, Boxer included, who worried that it could signal reopening the coast to a business largely shut out here since an oil spill off Santa Barbara in 1969.