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Trump says the Atlantic, Arctic could soon be open to oil drilling

The Royal Dutch Shell oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer is towed toward a dock in Elliott Bay in Seattle, weeks after Royal Dutch Shell announced it was walking away from exploratory drilling in U.S. Arctic waters. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

The White House is making a bid to overturn the Obama administration’s five-year plan forbidding oil and gas exploration in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans and will examine opportunities to drill almost anywhere off the U.S. coast.

Interior Department officials said Thursday that opening most of the outer continental shelf to leasing is part of President Trump’s strategy to make the United States a global leader in energy production, stimulate coastal activity and create thousands of jobs. But as onshore oil and natural gas production has surged from horizontal drilling, helping to lower the price of petroleum, interest in offshore drilling has fallen.

A barrel of petroleum sells for less than $45, and many oil companies balk at the massive investment in equipment needed to drill offshore when the price is lower than $85, analysts say.

Vincent DeVito, Interior’s counselor for energy policy, said a 45-day comment period will start Monday with a request for public comment in the Federal Register. DeVito said stakeholders, such as state governors, would be contacted for their input, as will the Department of Defense, which frowns upon exploration near bases and areas where ships conduct training exercises.

Royal Dutch Shell suspended drilling in the Arctic about two years ago when its oil exploration there produced a dry hole. The company said the result didn’t justify the massive risks and expense of drilling in the environmentally sensitive Arctic frontier.

DeVito said the Obama administration’s plan, to keep more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf off limits, isn’t feasible given a recent Trump administration analysis showing oil production there could create 300,000 jobs.

“Our country has a massive energy economy, and we should absolutely wear it on our sleeves, rather than keep energy resources in the ground,” he said in a statement. “This work will encourage responsible energy exploration and production, in order to advance the United States’ position as a global energy force and foster security for the benefit of the American citizenry.”

On his way out of office in January, President Barack Obama banned offshore drilling in both ocean areas, removing regions that he said are “simply not right to lease.”

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