EDITORIAL: Gas prices and the Gulf oil spill

One year later, Obama’s energy plan is ‘Brazil or bust’

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Today, on the one-year anniversary, Americans don’t have to travel to the Gulf to witness the lingering effect of the the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It’s right there in the numbers on their gas receipts every time they fill up at the pump. As hurtful as the disaster has been to the economic fortunes of the Gulf region, the impact of the Obama administration’s response to the spill has been far worse on the nation’s economy.

On April 20, 2010, the day of the tragic oil-rig blowout that killed 11 workers, the average price for gas nationwide was $2.87 a gallon. Today, it’s nearly a dollar higher. Residents of California, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Hawaii and Alaska already have seen gasoline crack the $4 mark. If the price at the pump holds to its current trajectory, by Memorial Day, it will surpass the all-time nationwide high of $4.11 set in July 2008. Beyond that, the summer driving season could make $5 gas a nightmarish reality.

Following last year’s spill, President Obama seized on the crisis to advance his radical green energy agenda, imposing a six-month moratorium on new deepwater oil-drilling permits in the Gulf and ordering a halt to all deepwater drilling operations already under way. He also reinstated a decades-old prohibition he had just lifted on oil and gas drilling along the coasts of the Atlantic states and northern Alaska. While much of the gas-price escalation has occurred since February when turmoil erupted in oil-rich Libya, Mr. Obama’s drilling ban has left the United States powerless to counter the effect of disruption on Mideast oil production with an upsurge in domestic production. Uncertainty of supply now injects a fear-factor additive into each costly gallon.

The public’s cries for relief from the upward spiral have failed to penetrate the thick walls of the White House, but a federal judge has finally gotten through. Judge Martin Feldman ordered the drilling moratorium lifted in February, and now a few permits are trickling out of the Interior Department. Secretary Ken Salazar and his permit czar, Michael Bromwich, have denied responsibility for the slowdown and even feinted solidarity with oil workers last week by donning hardhats and climbing aboard the first Gulf oil rig to receive a drilling permit since the BP explosion. An estimated 20,000 jobs already have been lost in the regions and oil production is expected to average 220,000 barrels a day fewer than pre-disaster projections.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama promised action to mitigate energy costs and touted natural gas, biofuels and “green” power sources like solar panels and windmills. He also pledged recently to sink dollars into oil drilling - in Brazil. Meanwhile, drivers in Texas have found gas going for $2.80 a gallon - if they’re willing to brave bullets for a run into Mexico.

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, nothing short of a rapid reversal of White House efforts to bottle up American’s energy resources can stave off long-term damage to the nation’s economic future. The message to the president: Drill, Barry, drill.

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