Washington: President Barack Obama on Wednesday backed new drilling for oil and natural gas off parts of the US coastline as a short-term, but necessary, solution to the country`s massive energy needs.
The move was viewed as an effort to placate some conservative Republicans, who have long called for more oil drilling and whose support Obama will need to tackle climate change with a broader overhaul of US energy policy.
But Obama`s announcement angered environmentalists, who lobbied against opening up sensitive coastal areas that are home to endangered wildlife and pristine beaches. Many politicians from coastal states have also stiffly opposed drilling off their shores, fearing its effects on tourism.
Obama said he was offering a middle ground. He backed opening up coastal areas in the mid and southern Atlantic as well as in the Arctic off Alaska`s coastline. Other areas, including the Pacific coast and Alaska`s Bristol Bay, would remain off limits to oil firms.
"This is not a decision that I`ve made lightly," Obama said in a speech at the Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility in Maryland. "But the bottom line is this: Given our energy needs ... we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, home-grown energy."