According to the Houston Chronicle, the trump administration has proposed to open vast swaths of the continental shelf to oil exploration and eventual production, including areas off the west and east coasts that have been off-limits for decades. However, a number of factors may delay development of potential offshore oil reserves for years. Even so, the policy change is a reversal of Obama-era restrictions on oil and gas development.

The politics in some areas are iffy

One factor that will hold back the development of some offshore oil development is local politics.

Environmentally conscious Californians oppose offshore oil drilling. However, since California is a deep blue state, that opposition does not matter all that much. More problematic will be NIMBYism in North Carolina and Florida, two states that the Republicans need to retain in their corner if they expect to keep winning national elections.

New oil and gas may not be needed

Another factor concerns the fact that the United States is already awash in Oil And Gas thanks to the fracking boom. Building offshore oil and gas platforms and the other infrastructure needed to produce fossil fuels in areas where such has not been developed will be costly. If oil and gas remain cheap because of fracking, the business case for a widespread expansion of offshore fossil fuel production won’t be there.

What happens now?

Sales will not happen before 2019, some 18 months from now. The plan currently is to open up leases offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and in the Atlantic and Pacific, including areas that have been off-limits for decades. In the meantime, an evaluation of the politics of oil and Gas Exploration and development expansion will likely cause an adjustment to these plans.

Any large scale addition of oil and gas is likely years away.

It goes almost without saying that the environmental lobby will be headed to court to try to block the lease sales. How long these cases will tie up the deals is something that is open to question.

In the meantime, the Trump administration has two economic arguments that buttress the case for more oil and gas production.

First, the current economic boom, heading toward four percent GDP growth and beyond, is partly fueled by cheap energy. The maintenance of restrictions on domestic production increases the risk of price spikes.

Increasingly, the United States is starting to become a fossil fuel exporter, with all that implies. The ability to supply foreign countries with oil and gas not only improves America’s trade balance but it enhances its political clout. The ability to undercut Middle Eastern and Russian sources improves America’s power in ways that are beyond evaluation.