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White House Halts New Offshore Drilling as Spill Nears Shore

A few weeks back, President Obama made waves by announcing his support for an expansion of offshore oil drilling — a strategy that Democrats on Capitol Hill had fought hard to defeat in recent years.

Today, as the oil from an enormous spill in the Gulf of Mexico creeps toward the shores of the southern U.S., the administration is having its doubts about the new policy. David Axelrod, senior adviser to Obama, told “Good Morning America” today that there’s a moratorium on the expansion until the recent spill can be controlled and investigated.

“No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here,” he said.

For the White House, the timing of the spill couldn’t have been worse. If Obama had stuck with his guns in opposing new drilling, he’d be seen as a prophet in the wake of this week’s Gulf disaster. Instead, by trying to make concessions to Republicans — most of whom won’t support a climate bill in any event — he’s simply alienated his conservation-minded supporters to no tangible benefit. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune makes the case.

“This disaster changes everything,” Brune said today in a statement. “We have hit rock-bottom in our fossil fuel addiction. This tragedy should be a wake up call. It’s time to take offshore drilling off the table for good.”

There’s also a good economic reason that offshore drilling isn’t the best way to secure the country’s energy independence. The Energy Department has determined “that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.”

And that was under the Bush White House.

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