President Obama's newfound interest in expanded natural gas drilling yesterday surprised many on all sides of the drilling debate, from environmentalists to drillers and even the coal industry.
Representatives of drilling groups said they had no idea that Obama would make natural gas his lead olive branch to the newly empowered Capitol Hill Republicans. But they were pleased that he did.
"I was surprised by the venue," said Chris Tucker, spokesman for Energy In Depth, a drilling industry group formed to fight off federal regulation of shale gas drilling.
Obama's remarks seemed to refer to vast new sources of shale gas in Pennsylvania, Texas and their neighboring states. Improvements in "hydraulic fracturing" technology have allowed production from formations under those states previously thought to be too expensive to exploit (E&ENews PM, Nov. 3).
"We've got, I think, broad agreement that we've got terrific natural gas resources in this country," Obama said when he was pressed for issues on which he could compromise with Republican leaders. "Are we doing everything we can to develop those?”
The answer is no. What has caused this sudden change of heart? He has, up until now, totally dismissed conservative ideas regarding the exploration of our own natural gas and coal or considering nuclear energy sources, and it hurt him bad in the Appalachian States and the South. The GOP swept Pennsylvania and Florida and had huge gains in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan. All of these states either produce coal or the major industries are heavily reliant on coal. Senator-elect/Governor Manchin had to shoot a hole in Obama and the Democrats’ Cap-n-Trade Bill, in order to get elected in coal-rich West Virginia. While this statement didn't mention coal this time, it could be just a matter of time before he says something similar about coal.
This is his attempt to win some of those people back that were rejecting Obama, in large part, because of his stance on the putting more regulations and restrictions on the industries. He’s betting on that this will appease some people enough to forget about whole cap-n-tax debacle by the time that November 2012 rolls around.