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Email: Public Comments Favored Drilling By 2-to-1 Margin

The people versus the powerful, energy edition.

2:47 PM, Feb 5, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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You probably changed the channel by then, but at one point in his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama brought up offshore drilling. Here is what he said:

To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.

Note that Obama does not mention exactly who will be making these tough decisions -- it certainly won't be him! For more than a year, his Interior Department has sat on a Bush administration proposal to open the outer continental shelf to oil and natural gas exploration and development. Like every such proposal, secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar opened it up to public comment for an extended period. When that period ended in September 2009, the Interior Department said it had received more than 530,000 comments. But it wouldn't reveal whether those comments were pro or con.

Now we know. The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports on an email from an Interior Department official in which she admits the comments ran two-to-one in favor of more offshore oil and gas development. Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future obtained the email through a FOIA request.

None of this is surprising. Polls have long showed public support for further oil and gas exploration. The only thing standing in the way has been the fierce resistance of the green lobby. As he looks for opportunities to prove that he is not an ideologue, Obama might want to buck this important Democratic constituency, side with the masses, and fast track the Bush plan.

Yes, for him, that truly would be a "tough" decision. But it's also one that would pay a political dividend.

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