Video: Obama bucks environmentalists on oil drilling

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama bucks environmentalists on oil drilling

    >>> news" begins now.

    >>> good evening. some americans have an opinion of offshore drilling that was first formed decades ago with those pictures of oil on the beaches in santa barbara , california. others see it differently. they say time and technology have changed things. they say in order to lessen our dependence on foreign oil and keep gas prices low, we've got to bring more of it out of the ground and from under the sea with other solutions still in the works. remember, "drill, baby, drill," became a chant at the gop convention. today the president surprised a lot of people by calling for offshore drilling across a vance expansive ocean along well-known stretches of our coastline. chuck todd is across town at the white house .

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. in the world of domestic democratic politics, it's akin to a nixon goes to china moment, a democratic president bucking a powerful interest group , environmentalists on the issue of oil drilling .

    >> this is not a decision that i've made lightly.

    >> reporter: the president announced a surprising new energy initiative to expand offshore drilling .

    >> given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel, even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable home grown energy.

    >> reporter: it is a shift from rhetoric when the president was candidate obama campaigning in florida .

    >> when i'm president i intend to keep in place the moratorium here in florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off florida 's coasts.

    >> reporter: during the campaign with soaring gas prices , republicans pounced.

    >> drill, baby, drill.

    >> reporter: by the fall, candidate obama signalled an openness to some drilling. this plan would allow offshore drilling in the atlantic ocean 50 miles off the seaboard of the united states from delaware to central florida . 125 miles in the gulf of mexico , open new areas of drilling in the arctic sea and alaska but protect bristol bay . the expansion could free up anywhere from 40 to 60 billion barrels of oil total, but that would cover the country's energy needs for just an additional five to ten years. environmentalists are not happy.

    >> any expansion of drilling we think is too aggressive, mainly because drilling is a dirty and dangerous business we think is incompatible with our coastlines and beaches and with coastal economies.

    >> reporter: today's announcement was as much about congressional politics as energy independence . earlier senator lindsey graham hinted the president was going to need to make a grand gesture if he wants republicans to support anything on energy and climate change .

    >> there is not 60 votes doing energy-only for offshore drilling . only when you marry up climate change , cleaning up the air with energy independence do you get the transformational aspects of energy independence i'm hoping for.

    >> reporter: by the way, brian, the announcement today by the president was made at a military base that was yet another olive branch to republicans as graham believes if the president couches this as a national security issue, he has a better chance to get republicans onboard, the entire climate change legislation p.

    >> all right. chuck todd at the white house in washington starting us off. now we

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