Kudos to President Obama for agreeing to open up some areas for off-shore drilling (though not nearly as much as we need). This appears to be a significant step in the right direction. In the summer of 2008, candidate Obama hinted that he might be willing to do this, but by inauguration last year he was not saying much that would give one hope for change on this issue.
One must still be cautious about whether there has been real change: the proof will come in the actual granting of permits to drill and open up new wells. I remember advocates of strict gun control arguing that “restrictive licensing” was more effective than a complete ban because restrictive licensing seemed more open to gun ownership or carrying, but in practice almost no one could get a permit. On drilling, time will tell.
UPDATE: According to Robert Costa, Sen. Bob Bennett says that the Administration’s openness on drilling is a sham:
While the administration may act like it is moving to the political center on energy, Bennett says that “tucked away in the language of its policy are countless actions that make it all the more difficult” for exploration. “Just look at what’s happening in Utah,” he says. “I’m trying to push Secretary Salazar in our direction. He keeps telling us that the administration is interested in natural gas, yet there is always some regulatory or legal hang-up that’s cited to keep anything from moving forward. They’re not serious about this. They want to implement onerous regulations. Same goes for coastal exploration.”