May 27, 2010
Today’s press conference.
What the meaning of is is.
Relevant transcript follows.
POTUS: The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil tells us something about the direction of the oil industry. Extraction is more expensive and it is going to be inherently more risky.
And so that’s part of the reason you never heard me say, “Drill, baby, drill” — because we can’t drill our way out of the problem. It may be part of the mix as a bridge to a transition to new technologies and new energy sources, but we should be pretty modest in understanding that the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground.
And as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there’s probably going to end up being more risk. And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept. And that’s part of what the commission I think is going to have to look at.
I will tell you, though, that understanding we need to grow — we’re going to be consuming oil for our industries and for how people live in this country, we’re going to have to start moving on this transition. And that’s why when I went to the Republican Caucus just this week, I said to them, let’s work together. You’ve got Lieberman and Kerry, who previously were working with Lindsey Graham — even though Lindsey is not on the bill right now — coming up with a framework that has the potential to get bipartisan support, and says, yes, we’re going to still need oil production, but you know what, we can see what’s out there on the horizon, and it’s a problem if we don’t start changing how we operate.
Q & A
Jackie Calmes, New York Times.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I want to follow up on something — exchange you had with Chip. Leaving aside the existing permits for drilling in the Gulf, before — weeks before BP, you had called for expanded drilling. Do you now regret that decision? And why did you do so knowing what you have described today about the sort of dysfunction in the MMS?
THE PRESIDENT: I continue to believe what I said at that time, which was that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall energy mix. It has to be part of an overall energy strategy. I also believe that it is insufficient to meet the needs of our future, which is why I’ve made huge investments in clean energy, why we continue to promote solar and wind and biodiesel and a whole range of other approaches, why we’re putting so much emphasis on energy efficiency.
But we’re not going to be able to transition to these clean energy strategies right away. I mean, we’re still years off and some technological breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean energy grid. During that time, we’re going to be using oil. And to the extent that we’re using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States and not simply rely on imports. That’s important for our economy; that’s important for economic growth.
So the overall framework, which is to say domestic oil production should be part of our overall energy mix, I think continues to be the right one. Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios.
Now, that wasn’t based on just my blind acceptance of their statements. Oil drilling has been going on in the Gulf, including deepwater, for quite some time. And the record of accidents like this we hadn’t seen before. But it just takes one for us to have a wake-up call and recognize that claims that fail-safe procedures were in place, or that blowout preventers would function properly, or that valves would switch on and shut things off, that — whether it’s because of human error, because of the technology was faulty, because when you’re operating at these depths you can’t anticipate exactly what happens — those assumptions proved to be incorrect.
And so I’m absolutely convinced that we have to do a thorough-going scrub of that — those safety procedures and those safety records. And we have to have confidence that even if it’s just a one-in-a-million shot, that we’ve got enough technology know-how that we can shut something like this down not in a month, not in six weeks, but in two or three or four days. And I don’t have that confidence right now.