As the rest of the world continues to drill off its respective coasts, the United States is heading in the opposite direction.

The Obama Administration announced that the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts will not be part of the government’s 2012–2017 Outer Continental Shelf program, effectively banning drilling in those areas for the next seven years.

The decision is a reversal from the President’s announcement in March in which he opened access to waters for offshore drilling in the Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico. But even that decision did more to tighten offshore oil and gas explorations than open it. That proposal canceled four lease sales in Alaska that were already pending. And it was just last month, when the Administration lifted the six-month ban on deepwater drilling, that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, “There will always be risks associated with deep-water drilling … [but] we have reached a point where we have significantly reduced those risks.”

If that’s the case, and the industry demonstrates that it can drill safely, the government needs to step aside and let companies determine whether these projects are economically feasible.

Offshore oil and gas drilling would create jobs and increase energy supplies without cost to the taxpayer. In fact, it would create revenues for financially strapped state governments and increase revenues for federal governments. But the United States won’t fully realize those benefits.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

In other parts of the world, however, deep-water drilling has continued at a frenetic pace. The industry is moving full speed ahead in places like the Gulf of Guinea, the Mediterranean and the Turkish Black Sea. But nowhere is that more apparent than in Brazil, where state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, last month began production in one of the largest oil fields discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 30 years. And a recently discovered field nearby could contain the equivalent of 15 billion barrels of oil, say Brazilian regulators, equal to almost two-thirds of the total proven deposits of crude in the U.S.

If the Administration were rationally governing by weighing the economic benefits of offshore oil and gas drilling versus the risks of doing so, this decision would be a no-brainer. But instead our government is catering to the demands of environmental groups, and the companies that want to create jobs will go elsewhere to drill.

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