Weeks before the world had ever heard of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, President Barack Obama stood in the Roosevelt Room of the White House poring over maps of oil drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and elsewhere.
Satisfied that he knew all he needed to know and confident that it was safe, he decided to propose expanded offshore drilling. "This is not a decision that I've made lightly," he said when he unveiled his proposal on March 31.
"Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills," he added two days later. "They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn't come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore." On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, setting off the largest oil spill in U.S. history. It drove Obama to freeze the proposal he'd just made.
An in-depth review by McClatchy reveals how Obama reached that initial decision to expand offshore drilling _ and why he failed to get information that might have led him instead to delay or oppose it and perhaps even raise questions about the deepwater drilling that was already under way.
Obama did roll back some of the offshore drilling that the George W. Bush administration had approved on Bush's last day in office. However, Obama never challenged the Bush era's fundamental faith in the oil industry or its ability to clean up a massive spill. Instead, he embraced expanded offshore drilling, in part to win Republican support for broader legislation to curb climate change.