Only hours before Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of an “assault on coal and gas and oil,” the Obama-appointed interior secretary Ken Salazar took another swipe at our country’s fledgling fossil fuel industry. In granting permission to Shell to begin preparation for drilling its first Arctic well, Obama et al. is clearly continuing that “assault.”

Yes, despite the countless assertions we will no doubt continue to hear about how Obama has brought on the demise of the oil companies, the truth is that drilling has increased by almost 60 percent under his administration.

Just yesterday, the Interior Department gave the green light for drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Though the permission comes with a few safety strings attached, environmentalists argue that “neither the company nor the government [is] prepared to handle the risks of drilling in the fragile and unforgiving region.” Neil Lawrence, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, compared the move to “a building inspector letting a developer start construction on a skyscraper on shaky ground before the safety plans are even complete.”

Of course, the reaction from Shell was less cautious. “Today’s announcement is extremely exciting,” said Pete Slaiby, Shell’s vice president for operations in Alaska. “We’ve been waiting for this for about six years.”

Alaskan senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D) both went on the record with their support. So are the Democrats just trying to keep climate skeptic, pro-drilling voters happy? The timing with the conclusion of the Republican National Convention was “pure coincidence.”

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