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Is the Gulf oil tragedy changing Obama's mind on offshore drilling?

Is the Gulf oil tragedy changing Obama's mind on offshore drilling?

Posting in Energy

A deep sea oil well is leaking disaster for the Gulf of Mexico's fishing and tourism industries and wildlife. Its ultimate cause may have the Obama Administration rethinking its lift of the offshore drilling ban.

The Obama Administration has increased the federal government's involvement in helping BP try to contain, clean, and stop the oil spewing from the undersea well involved in the recent Deepwater Horizon accident.

Burning, booming, doming, dispersing, skimming, drilling—you name it—is being executed by the response effort, which now includes BP, Transocean, the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Departments of Defense, Interior, and Homeland Security.

But will the leak influence Obama's recent decision to nix the ban on offshore drilling for much of the East Coast and Alaska?

Reuters quotes White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs:

Could that [the determined cause of the accident] possibly change his viewpoint? Well, of course.

I think our focus right now is: one, the area, the spill; and two, also to ultimately determine the cause of it and see the impact that that ultimately may or may not have.

In numerous news reports, Governor of Florida Charlie Crist has stated his change of heart on the oil extraction practice:

It's clearly not clean enough after we saw what we saw today—that's horrific—and it certainly isn't safe enough. It's the opposite of safe.

Meanwhile, longtime offshore drilling opponent Florida's Senator Bill Nelson has introduced legislation that would temporarily bar the Obama Administration from expanding offshore drilling, including seismic testing and exploratory operations, into new areas. There is also a Congressional investigation into the incident.

According to NOAA, the well is leaking 5 times more oil than previously thought. This amounts to 5,000 barrels each day.

As brown ribbons of crude spread more than 150 x 30 miles across the Gulf, drifting closer to shore and nearing the Mississippi Delta, they bring ecological and economic disaster to fishing, tourism, and wildlife communities.

As of last night, the oil had reached within three miles from land, with reports of clumps of oil already washing ashore.

Top Image: Flickr/DigitalGlobe-imagery
Bottom Image: NOAA

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure