Commentary: Putting the brakes on offshore drilling

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

"Drill, baby, drill – right here, right now!" was a popular rallying cry for John McCain and Sarah Palin during a recent political campaign that some may remember. But as it happened, the McCain ticket came in second in a two-way race. Now to the winners has gone the right to set policy for offshore petroleum drilling – and fortunately, it looks as though cooler heads may prevail.

Congress, responding to last year's gasoline price eruption, lifted a long-standing ban on offshore drilling. But it was up to the executive branch to set rules and proceed with leasing. The Bush administration, four days before Barack Obama's inauguration, got the process rolling.

Now Obama's interior secretary, Ken Salazar, sensibly has hit the brakes. There's too much at stake with sensitive coastal ecosystems to rush into offshore drilling without a careful review of potential reserves and due consideration of state and local sentiment.

Salazar also wants a broader look at coastal energy development that could include the tapping of wind power. The nation won't be able to drill its way out of a dependence on foreign oil, so waving a caution flag with regard to drilling in places such as the continental shelf off North Carolina is a good move, baby, good move.