3 Apr 2010

US plans to expand offshore drilling

3:59 pm on 3 April 2010

United States President Barack Obama has announced proposals to expand offshore oil and gas exploration in a bid to reduce foreign energy dependency.

The White House says drilling will be allowed off Virginia and consideration will be given to allowing it off much of the rest of the Atlantic coast.

Plans for some drilling sites in Alaska will be cancelled but one will proceed, the BBC reports.

The Obama administration's move was attacked by Republicans as too little and by ecologists as hazardous.

A long-standing drilling ban has covered the Atlantic coast, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska.

Mr Obama said the aim was to move the US economy from one that ran on fossil fuels and foreign oil, but warned expanding drilling was not a catch-all answer.

He said drilling alone cannot come close to meeting America's long-term energy needs, and for the sake of the planet and the country's energy independence, the transition to cleaner fuels has to begin now.

The BBC reports Mr Obama's decision to consider more drilling could help secure support for a climate change bill languishing in Congress.

However, Republicans criticised the plan, saying it kept the biggest US offshore energy resources from being developed at a time when petrol prices were high and jobs scarce.