Trump’s offshore drilling plan ‘juices up’ the Democrats in upcoming elections, says expert

  • Opposition to Trump's plan to expand offshore drilling in federal waters will be good for Democrats, says US expert
  • Strong opposition from Democrats and environmental groups has been joined by some Republican governors like Florida's Rick Scott
  • The Interior Department's draft proposal offers about 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf for drilling, the largest lease sale in history

U.S. President Donald Trump's proposal to open nearly all federal waters to offshore drilling has fired up many Democrats and could very well backfire in upcoming congressional elections, according to an expert.

"This just juices up the Democratic base," Peter Trubowitz, professor of international relations and director of the United States Center at the London School of Economics, told CNBC on Friday.

Trump's plan, presented by the Department of the Interior in a draft proposal on Thursday, would offer offshore blocks to oil and gas drillers in practically the entire U.S. outer continental shelf, opening the door to drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The drilling proposal has triggered significant opposition from Democratic leaders and environmentalists in particular, but has garnered Republican criticism as well.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida and Larry Hogan of Maryland, both Republicans, have urged Trump to remove their states from consideration. Hogan vowed to oppose the plan "to the fullest extent that is legally possible."

Additionally, more than 60 environmental groups have denounced the plan. Many industry groups, meanwhile, are praising the decision.

With both parties gearing up for what are set to be fiercely competitive midterm elections in November 2018, this will likely give further motivation to Democrats to mobilize votes across states where competition will be tight, and particularly in coastal states like Florida.

According to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the draft proposal offers about 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf for leasing, representing the largest lease sale in history. This sharply reverses an Obama administration ban on drilling in much of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, which was meant to be indefinite.

Zinke added that while the proposal has been put forth, "nothing is final yet."

The move is the latest by Trump to continue delivering on his campaign promise to roll back Obama-era policies and dismantle government regulation through executive orders. "That doesn't require congressional support," Trubowitz said. "He could move unilaterally, that seems from day one to have been the strategy."