Has President Obama broken a promise on offshore drilling?

I received an e-mail from Oceana today encouraging me to “tell President Obama to keep his promise”. The e-mail claims that while running for President, he campaigned against offshore oil drilling, which would make his recent announcement about allowing offshore drilling a broken promise indeed. However, I seem to remember that Obama as a candidate was for offshore drilling. I went to my favorite non-partisan fact check website, Politifact, to sort this out.

From the Politifact article on President Obama’s offshore drilling plan:

“In 2008, we gave him a Half Flip because early in his campaign he said he intended to maintain the long-standing moratorium barring drilling off the Florida coast, telling oil companies to drill on the land they already had leased. Then, amid soaring gas prices in the summer of 2008, he shifted and announced he was receptive to a plan for opening new areas for drilling.”

In other words, at one point Obama was against offshore drilling, but then he was for it later in the campaign. In other other words, if you look at his most recent views on the topic, he hasn’t broken any promises. He’s only breaking promises if you look at what he originally said on the topic. Laws and sausages. Oy.

For the record, Politifact’s Obamater is keeping track of 503 campaign promises that Obama made. They rate 102 as “kept”, 35 as “compromise”, 17 as “broken”, 85 as “stalled”, 262 as “in the works”, and 2 as “not yet rated”.  I suppose that’s not terrible for a politician?



  1. Sam · March 31, 2010

    I was hoping one of you would write about this today. I kind of turned beet red when I heard.

    Not that I claim to know much of anything about drilling and its effects on oceanic communities (though I wouldn’t complain if anyone gave me some good sources where I can start looking).

    My beef with it is (and I sent an e-missive to the whitehouse.gov site to this effect) that this will create entrenched interests. Oil companies have a lot to gain if they find oil deposits in the areas specified. They’ll lobby hard for candidates that’ll give them the permission to drill. And that will hold up clean energy reform.

    His master plan? If my logic holds above, which I’m pretty sure it does, his master energy revamp plan = MASSIVE FAIL.

  2. The Real Sam · March 31, 2010

    I fully support offshore drilling so this is one promise I’m glad he broke, although I still don’t know that this is a good proposal. It’s tied into the new Cap and Fraud bill they are putting together and if the overall effects of that bill are negative they would outweigh any positive to come from offshore drilling.

    • Southern Fried Scientist · March 31, 2010

      Wah, wah, cap and trade is BAH-ad.

    • WhySharksMatter · April 1, 2010

      You’re not giving him enough credit for cleverness. He said “Cap and Fraud”, which is like saying cap and trade, but throws in there that he doesn’t think climate change is happening…all in three little words! Bravo, Real Sam. Bravo.

    • Sam · March 31, 2010

      Cap and trade is a better solution to the problem than a command and control style solution, which is kind of where we’re headed and Republican law makers are kind of causing because they’re not doing anything beneficial with respect to the cap-and-trade bill.

  3. Southern Fried Scientist · March 31, 2010

    Let’s be honest though. We love the oceans and can’t stand anything that could harm them. However, terrestrial drilling mandates a huge infrastructure – roads to the drill sites, permanent wells, massive complexes to house workers. On the flip side, offshore drilling, though still destructive, is significantly less so. if the choice is between terrestrial or offshore drilling, then the choice is clear.

    But the real solution is developing sustainable energy.

    • WhySharksMatter · April 1, 2010

      I at no point said that I was against offshore drilling (I’m actually not sure how I feel about it, primarily because of the reasons you stated here- it’s not great, but there are worse options).

      The point of this post was that Oceana said that Obama broke a promise, but he didn’t really do that.

  4. Jim McCallum · March 31, 2010

    Face it: Like it or not, you will or will not be disappointed. There are so many safeguards in place that if you hate the prospects of drilling on your favorite beach, you will be happy – it can’t happen for years, because of the protections under NEPA, MMPA, ESA, the general court system, etc etc. We bureaucrats can immobilize permits forever. If you love the prospect of gushing hydrocarbons and your stocks values, you will be disappointed for the same reason. So much progress is being made on other fronts – solar, tidal, wind, natural gas, (nuclear), conservation … I’m not terrified of the future – as long as we can keep working on cost effective, green, productive alternatives, I am confident. And now I am going to turn the lights off and go to bed.
    Jim in Bethesda

  5. The Real Sam · April 2, 2010

    It’s not that I don’t believe in climate change; it’s that I don’t believe we are the cause of it.

  6. meaydlet · April 7, 2010

    I think Oceana is just another anti-Obama organization looking to pick a fight. If this matter was such a big issue to them, they should have researched the facts completely before passing judgment. So thank you for doing their dirty work for them, David. Being an organization who’s main purpose is on ocean conservation, the matter of drilling itself and how they can help should have been the main topic of their email to you, rather than bashing the President. Especially since they were wrong. Stick to what you know, Oceana.

    • WhySharksMatter · April 8, 2010

      “I think Oceana is just another anti-Obama organization looking to pick a fight.”

      Um… no. Oceana is a well-respected and relatively-moderate conservation organization. Overall they’re fairly supportive of President Obama, they are just annoyed with him on one issue.

      “So thank you for doing their dirty work for them, David.”

      I don’t understand what you are saying here, but you’re welcome?

      “the matter of drilling itself and how they can help should have been the main topic of their email to you, rather than bashing the President. Especially since they were wrong”

      I agree with you here. They can make (and have made) a legitimate argument that we shouldn’t be drilling offshore, but by focusing the e-mail on an allegedly broken promise, they lost me.

  7. Henk Manussen · April 20, 2010

    There is a connection between excessive oil exploration and seismic activity.
    The organic machine that is mother earth is running out of oil and the way we use it is chokin’ everything to death..
    Green technology is the only safe way..
    If Pres.Obama wants to sink America.. who knows the world might be a better place..
    May peace prevail..It’s all good

  8. Henk Manussen · April 20, 2010

    Ha-ha you guys are really so good
    .. a green sun.. love it..
    I forgot to mention ‘ go solar ‘ the oil industry is killing everything.. even bombs are a by-product.. so is cancer and all this murderous lunacy everywhere.
    Cooking with gas as they say and the planet is spewing magma..
    Stop the money-hungry from committing planeticide..
    Solar Power is the cleanest way.

    • WhySharksMatter · April 20, 2010

      What are you talking about? Oil exploration can (very rarely) cause minor earthquakes, but nothing that will sink the whole country. That’s just ridiculous, as is the claim that the world would be better off of without the United States.

      And what does oil have to do with bombs and cancer? We had explosives and disease long before we had an oil based economy, and we’ll have explosives and disease long after.

  9. Julie · April 21, 2010

    I am very disappointed in his decision to open offshore oil drilling after he made a promise not to. I don’t understand it. I know we need our oil fix, but it’s only a matter of time before it’s all gone and we’ll be in a fix then because we haven’t put enough money and energy into alternative forms of energy.

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