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Anchors Aweigh

The White House's anti-growth ocean policy.

12:44 PM, Feb 11, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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With the Obama administration now focusing on jobs, and with the forthcoming introduction of a jobs bill in Congress (or yet another stimulus bill, depending on semantics), it would seem the Democrats would be against any sort of policy initiatives that would stifle economic growth. But that does not seem to be the case.

Today marks the final day for comment on a little noticed ocean policy change the Obama administration is pushing. In what is called the "Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force," the administration is proposing a major power grab that would seek to regulate and actually “zone” the oceans, in a way that hasn't been done before by the U.S. government.

Anchors Aweigh


In effect, the policy would create a bureaucratic mess, limiting the use of oceans (and all things related to the oceanic industry!) by implementing a top-down mandate on all things related to the oceans. The Interim Framework proposes shifting a major burden on all industries. In the name of taking "precautionary approach," the Interim Framework, if implemented, would force any activity related to oceans to prove that it does not create any risk to the environment. In the realm of policy, this essentially means that they would be guilty until proven innocent. (Analysts suggest that this would place a de facto moratorium on ocean related activity, until one proves that the activity doesn't force environmental harm, though the precise ramifications are hard to gauge, since this policy is only in its interim phase.)

This would affect the oil industry tremendously, as well as shipping, commercial fishing and recreational uses of the oceans (think: fishermen, boaters, etc.). It even threatens to thwart offshore wind and wave energy projects. This initiative appears to be in line with recent actions by the Interior Department to reverse Bush administration policies designed to better utilize America’s domestic oil and gas resources. In announcing policies that will make federal oil and gas exploration more difficult, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that in the past energy companies were treated like "kings of world."  And the Treasury Department in its recently submitted Green Book of 2010 budget recommendations admonished incentives for domestic oil and gas production as detriment because it “encourages overproduction of oil and gas.” It is clear from this rhetoric and the proposed ocean policy that the Obama administration does not see a link between domestic energy production and jobs and economic growth.

If the administration is successful in passing its proposed ocean policy, it would be a major blow to the free market.

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