Progressives, Democrats and environmentalists are all baffled when it comes to understanding Obama’s proposal to open up offshore drilling. Some have called it sensible middle ground, and others only register a big question mark. Laura Flanders turns to Senior Staff Reporter of Grist.org Dave Roberts to explain what the proposal is all about.

The key is to understand that this was a purely political move and has little to do with energy policy, Roberts explains. Offshore drilling would not substantially lower the price of oil. In fact, Obama has actually restricted the areas available to offshore drilling, since Bush and Congress lifted a moratorium on drilling in 2008. Obama’s strategy behind the proposal is to win three or four Republican votes on comprehensive climate and energy legislation. Roberts describes the proposal as “not quite as bad as it looks…. So if it actually works to bring about comprehensive climate and energy policy, I think it will be a great trade to make.”

Despite the proposal looking not so bad, Roberts doesn’t think endorsing offshore drilling is a smart move. The problem is that Obama is willing to bend on key environmental issues, such as offshore drilling and nuclear power, but he doesn’t demand anything in return. “If I’m a Republican Senator having gotten what I want, what incentive do I now have to compromise,” Roberts asks. “I don’t think anyone gets it.”

–Morgan Ashenfelter