U.S. President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Friday, April 28 extending offshore oil and gas drilling to areas that had been off-limits.
The move aims to increase domestic production, but it might not prove to be the best idea considering that industry demand for acreage has been rather low.
The new executive order could expand offshore drilling to parts of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans, along with the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Previously, former U.S. President Barack Obama fought to protect the U.S. Gulf of Mexico from development following the massive BP oil spill from 2010.
Boosting National Security And Economy
"America must put the energy needs of American families and businesses first and continue implementing a plan that ensures energy security and economic vitality for decades to come," notes the presidential executive order.
Trump highlights that the minerals and energy produced from waters and lands under federal management play an important part in national security and economy. Boosting domestic energy production on federal lands and waters increases national security and lowers the nation's reliance on imported energy, the order further explains.
At the same time, increased domestic energy supply will lead to low energy prices, in turn benefiting citizens and reinvigorating U.S. manufacturing and job growth.
"Finally, because the Department of Defense is one of the largest consumers of energy in the United States, domestic energy production also improves our Nation's military readiness," adds the order.
America-First Offshore Energy Strategy
Trump's presidential campaign focused heavily on a promise to ditch Obama's environmental protections, arguing that they were holding back energy development while providing no real benefits. Those plans drew heavy criticism from environmental advocates and the new executive order is bound to stir a new firestorm.
Moreover, the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, as the executive order is called, arrives at a time when industry demand for offshore leasing is nearing the lowest level in years, as onshore production and low oil prices have taken a toll. This raises a whole other set of questions on whether expanded offshore drilling is the best course of action.
Some argue that Trump's new executive order is hasty and uncalled for, defying market trends and realities.
Before leaving office, Obama sought to protect 115 million acres of waters off Alaska and 3.5 million acres in the Atlantic by banning new oil and gas drilling in waters of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans under federal management.
Trump's new executive order now urges the U.S. Department of Interior to reassess and replace the most recent five-year oil and gas development plan the Obama administration put in place for the outer continental shelf, which covers federal waters off all U.S. coasts.
The order not only calls for a new five-year drilling plan, but it also reverses Obama's move to place certain Arctic waters permanently off-limits. It remains to be seen, however, whether lifting that ban would make Arctic drilling an attractive option.
Environmental Groups To Fight Executive Order In Court
The Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and other environmental groups are against the order and plan to take matters to court. The order has already raised controversy and democratic senators have opposed it as well, arguing that it could have a negative impact on the tourism and fishing industries.