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In Obama’s Offshore Drilling Announcment, an Apology to Environmentalists

President Obama, speaking at Andrews Air Force Base, just announced his decision to expand the country’s offshore drilling for oil. But his speech sounded mostly like an apology to environmentalists for the move.

The president began by touting his administration’s commitment to clean energy, through new investments and higher auto mileage standards. He announced a new plan to double the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet.

“But we have to do more,” he continued. “We have to keep making investments in clean coal technology. … In the short term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we still have to make some tough decisions about opening up” coastal areas to offshore drilling.

“The bottom line is this,” he said, again apparently addressing environmental advocates. “Given our energy needs, in order to sustain econ growth and create jobs, … we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel.”

But he added, “We’ll employ new technologies that reduce the environmental impact of offshore exploration.”

“There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision,” he continued. “What I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy” to move us to a reliance on “home-grown fuels,” including renewable energy sources.

He also addressed the criticism he’s already drawn from the right. “On the other side, there are going to be some who argue that we don’t go nearly far enough. … To those folks, I’m gonna say this: We have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil. What that means is that drilling alone can’t come close to meeting our energy needs.”

It’s a difficult balancing act Obama is attempting, and his announcement today showed his awareness of the ire he’s incurring from both sides of the aisle.

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