Commentary: Obama again looks north to increase domestic oil production

In a speech last week President Obama said he wants to press ahead with oil and gas exploration in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and speed the permitting process for Shell's offshore exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, where the oil company wants to drill in 2012. That policy makes sense if the United States aims to increase domestic production, as Obama has pledged. And it's welcome here at home after the encouragement the president gave Brazil earlier this year, promising a U.S. market for that nation's oil.

The policy made sense in March 2010, when the president announced an oil-and-gas exploration policy that included Arctic exploration and excluded drilling near Bristol Bay, home to the richest salmon fishery in the world.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 put any new offshore work on hold for months. Now, however, the president again has said he wants to move ahead both offshore and onshore in the NPR-A, while keeping the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off limits.

If he sticks with this plan, Conoco Phillips may get a chance to increase its North Slope production by tapping into the NPR-A, where the Army Corps of Engineers' refusal to allow a bridge has stalled plans.

And Shell likely will drill in Arctic waters, where huge reserves of oil and gas may await.

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