obama-bushHas Obama morphed into President Bush? We were used to Bush strutting his stuff before glistening US military hard-ware, but Obama seems to have followed suit.

In pictures reminiscent of Bush, yesterday Obama made an announcement in front of a F16 fighter (although one ironically modified to fly on biomass jet fuel).

But not only is Obama beginning to look like Bush, he is sounding like him too.

In a reversal of policies that have protected American shorelines since the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, Mr Obama paved the way for a new energy rush that will have the oil industry positively squirming with excitement.

Obama promised to open up vast areas of ocean off the coasts of Alabama, Florida and the eastern US states from Delaware to Georgia, and Alaska.

He opened up 167 million acres (67 million hectares) of coastal waters to drilling, in an attempt, according to Obama, to limit America’s dependence on foreign energy and to win Republican backing for a stalled climate change Bill.

“This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly,” Obama said, stressing that it would be done “in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America’s natural resources.”

The American Petroleum Institute called  it a “promising development” that “recognizes that the administration understands the potential job creation and domestic energy production that will result from offshore access.”

But the drilling plans bring huge ecological risks with drilling so close to the shore. Yet the return could be minimal.

Known oil reserves in the newly opened areas are said to be modest: fields under the East Coast’s outer continental shelf and the single largest new parcel of the Gulf of Mexico would provide barely four years’ supply.

Ecstatic Republicans responded with cries of “Drill, baby, drill” which was their 2008 election campaign.

Environmental and conservation groups were outraged. Here are some of the reactions:

A spokesman for the Centre for Biological Diversity said: “Short of sending Sarah Palin back to Alaska to personally club polar bears to death, the Obama Administration could not have come up with a more efficient extinction plan for the polar bear.”

Phil Radford, Greenpeace executive director, said: “Is this President Obama’s clean energy plan or Palin’s ‘Drill, baby drill’ campaign? “Expanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change.”

Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, added that the announcement was “all too typical of what we have seen so far from Obama — promises of change, a year of ‘deliberation,’ and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own.”

“This is stunning. Baffling,” said the environmental website Grist. “Obama appears to be taking a major step toward siding with carbon-polluting industries in the battle to defend the energy status quo.”

“Drilling our coasts will doing nothing to lower gas prices or create energy independence,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “It will only jeopardize beaches, marine life, and coastal tourist economies, all so the oil industry can make a short-term profit.”

“We’re appalled that the president is unleashing a wholesale assault on the oceans,” Jacqueline Savitz of the environmental group Oceana said. “Expanding offshore drilling is the wrong move if the Obama administration is serious about improving energy security, creating lasting jobs and averting climate change.”

Obama also faced opposition from Democrats whose coastal constituencies could be threatened by drilling. U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (Democrat, from New Jersey), said:

“Giving Big Oil more access to our nation’s waters is really a ‘Kill, Baby, Kill’ policy: it threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life, and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars”.

David Helvarg, the president of the Blue Frontier Campaign, a marine conservation group, said Obama’s  reliance on offshore drilling, as well as nuclear power and clean coal was like “advocating a healthy diet based on fast-food snacking, amphetamines and low-tar cigarettes.”

We knew Bush was addicted to oil – It looks like Obama is too.