On the campaign trail Barack Obama is taking care to hit all the right chords on job creation. But, when its feet were held to the fire this year, the Administration sided with special interests and the environmental lobby instead of providing Americans with surefire jobs.
Last year, the Obama Administration seemingly stood up to the environmental lobby by allowing leases for oil exploration in the Alaskan Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to move forward. This was welcome news for Shell, which is looking to open exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas this summer, and for over 50,000 American workers that would see long-term jobs come out of Alaskan oil exploration.
In turn, America would get approximately 700,000 barrels of domestically-produced oil per day for at least 40 years. And this is only a fraction of the oil that could lie under the surface in the Arctic. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in a 2008 study that the Arctic holds 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – roughly 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil supply.
But, the Administration’s pro-jobs decision angered big donors and friends within the fringe environmental lobby, who weren't about to let it happen again - especially not in an election year. The Keystone Pipeline didn’t stand a chance as political concerns outweighed good domestic and foreign policy.
Now, though, the re-energized environmental lobby is pressuring the Administration to drag its feet on the OCS exploration. At the heart of the environmental lobby’s argument is a false choice between economic development and environmental preservation. In fact, Shell’s efforts to advance scientific understanding of the Arctic’s oceans, wildlife and coastal areas has been praised by the Alaska SeaLife Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Obama’s Department of the Interior.
This support is not done on blind faith. Shell earned this reputation with safe, responsible and environmentally sound deepwater Arctic drilling that spans 33 Alaskan wells and over 150 wells in Arctic waters in the U.S. and Canada – all without major incident.
Let’s hope that Shell’s history, continued investment in safe technologies and the assurance of high-paying jobs are enough to sway the Obama Administration to move forward with Alaskan energy exploration. After all, if President Obama is truly looking for “shovel-ready” jobs, he needs to look no further than the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Alaskan OCS.