Obama hailed for energy rethink

US environmentalists were pleased by the weekend announcement that president-elect Barack Obama would consider curtailing oil and gas drilling in some environmentally sensitive areas, Reuters reported. They also voiced hope that, in future energy-policy decisions, more environmental protection would be included.

John Podesta, co-chair of Obama’s presidential transition team, said that the new US leader probably would reverse an executive order by president George W Bush that allows drilling in fragile lands in the state of Utah.

Environmental groups — including the National Audubon Society and the Wilderness Society — also urged Obama to reconsider allowing drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, along Alaska’s coast. They said, too, that they hoped he would restrict development in certain areas open to drilling in New Mexico and Colorado.

Oil industry members voiced concern about restrictions on drilling on federal land, terming such exploration essential to meeting the country’s energy needs.

In July, Bush lifted an executive order banning oil drilling off US coasts, and Congress allowed the ban to expire in October. The House of Representatives has approved a comprehensive energy bill that allows offshore drilling 50 miles (about 80 kilometres) from the east and west coasts — with individual states’ approval — and completely opening areas more than 100 miles from the coast to oil exploration.

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