Editorial comment

On March 31, US President Barack Obama announced plans to open 157 million acres for oil and gas leasing on the East Coast, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and in northern waters offshore Alaska (see the article on pp. 76–79). The new acreage comes with innumerable “ifs” and “buts”—a case of how more is less. The new areas will be available for 2012–2017 lease sales only after environmental impact assessments and public hearings. The US Congress may yet renew its expired annual ban on exploration on the East Coast. In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, drilling must take place 125 mi beyond the Florida shoreline. There is little or no oil and gas infrastructure in these regions, and new seismic surveys will be needed to better understand the resource potential, which will take decades to explore and develop (see figure).

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