U.S. Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic Ocean

The Effectiveness of President Obama’s “Sustainable Development” Approach in Addressing Diverse Stakeholder Needs

As the Department of the Interior has introduced a 2017-2022 proposal that could allow drilling in federal waters off the “shores of four states-Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia” (Koch 2015), President Obama’s administration’s plan has received mixed reviews from diverse stakeholders. Despite this, President Obama’s plan is still the most effective in addressing the diverse needs of stakeholders because he uses a “sustainable development” approach, elaborated in Zachary Smith’s “The Environmental Policy Paradox” through a “balanced” proposition to focus both on economic development and environmental sustainability together.

The Obama administration’s “sustainable development” approach is capable of creating a “positive-sum” game despite weaknesses in the perspective’s practice. Sustainable development elaborates that we need economic prosperity while also “recognizing our limits to ensure distributive justice” (Smith 2009, 29). Its weakness is not being able to provide for the needs of those on the extremes, such as prometheans or green romanticists who would not easily cooperate together. Cooperation obtains “material goods as well as a healthy environment” (Smith 29).

The plan has angered stakeholders such as environmentalists, democrats, and nonprofits due to the ecological risks of oil spills, but it also seeks to gain their approval by citing strong limitations on the drilling process for crucial ecosystems. Many who disagree with the plan are on the side of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who stated that “oil travels a long way – it doesn’t respect boundaries” (Koch 2015). Yet in Obama’s administration’s pursuit in creating an environmentally sustainable pro-business practice, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell states that the plan “protects areas that are just too special to develop” (Drajem and Snyder 2015). Drilling will not occur off the coast of Florida or parts of Alaska, “where notably whale-rich portions [of the ocean] reside… and officials oppose drilling” (Koch 2015). The fact that two days prior Obama announced plans to protect 12 million acres of Alaska “off-limits to oil and gas development” (Warrick 2015), shows a “sustainable” approach with minimal environmentalist resentment.

Stakeholders such as oil companies and right wing opponents to the plan state that too much of the country’s oil reserves are locked away, yet are content with Obama’s direction. Oil industry officials such as Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute state that, “we need to get out there” (Koch 2015). This stems from the fact that “nearly 90 percent of federally owned coastal waters are currently off-limits for drilling” (Warrick 2015). Opponents state that such limits “put American jobs and greater U.S. energy security at risk” (Koch 2015). Meanwhile, Republicans like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley congratulate Obama for starting to explore energy off the coast because it is “critical for economic development” (Drajem and Snyder 2015). Although opponents are upset that limits are too strong, they believe the motive is going in the right direction.

Obama’s plan will not gain full support from those whose ideals conflict with cooperating with those on either extreme, but his approach is the most effective route in gaining most possible approval from diverse stakeholders. Regardless of one’s personal opinion on oil drilling, Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy in searching for fossil fuels and renewable energies, and protecting specific eco-systems, creates a positive sum-game for the needs of most stakeholders.


Drajem, Mark, and Jim Snyder. “Obama Proposes Offshore Oil Drilling From Virginia to Georgia.” Bloomberg.com. January 27, 2015. Accessed January 27, 2015.             http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-27/obama-proposes-offshore-oil-drilling-from-virginia-to-georgia.html.

Koch, Wendy. “What’s Behind U.S. Plan to Open Atlantic to Offshore Drilling?” National Geographic. January 27, 2015. Accessed January 27, 2015. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2015/01/150127-atlantic-coast-natural-gas-offshore-drilling-environment-energy.

Warrick, Joby. “Obama Administration Opens up Southern Atlantic Coast to Offshore Drilling – but Restricts It in Alaska.” Washington Post. January 27, 2015. Accessed January 27, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/01/27/obama-administration-opens-up-southern-atlantic-coast-to-offshore-drilling-but-restricts-it-in-alaska.

Smith, Zachary. “The Environmental Policy Paradox.” Northern Arizona University: 26-31.

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