NEW YORK (JTA) — Some Jewish groups expressed disappointment and concern over President Obama’s decision to open U.S. coastal areas to oil exploration.
While welcoming the administration’s announcement last week of improved fuel efficiency standards for cars and the regulation for the first time of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life and the Reform movement’s Washington arm, the Religious Action Center, expressed their concerns over the increased oil drilling.
COEJL, director Sybil Sanchez said in a statement, "is very concerned that the President’s policy announcement also includes an expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration that opens the door to drilling off our nation’s coasts. Efforts to green our transportation fleet must be part of a broader strategy to move our nation toward a clean energy economy. The Jewish community has long advocated reducing our dependence on foreign oil. However, such policies must sustain our fragile environment."
The Religious Action Center said the call for increased oil drilling would have few long-term benefits while increasing the risk to marine ecosystems.
"At a time when we need clean energy alternatives to keep both our environment and our economy secure, we again call for an end to — not an expansion of — drilling in ecologically sensitive areas," said the center’s director, Rabbi David Saperstein.
On March 31, the administration announced four new measures as part of its energy strategy. In addition to expanding coast oil and gas exploration, the plan includes stricter fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks to require 35.5 miles per gallon, expansion of the "green fleet" of federal vehicles, and reducing the military’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Disappointment with the measure, which was widespread in liberal circles, also was expressed by the Jewish Renewal leader Rabbi Arthur Waskow.
"What is wrong with this off-shore drilling?" Waskow said. "First, it will do far less, at far greater cost, to make the U.S. less dependent on ‘foreign oil’ than would a sweeping, energetic presidential campaign for energy efficiency and conservation at every level of American life."