Fouled beaches may boost alternative energy

President Obama's announcement today ordering a halt to all offshore exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was bad news for the oil industry but may offer big dividends to clean energy.

BP's spill also was dubbed the nation's worst by a team of scientists today, outpacing the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

"We’re going to be ordering the following actions: First, we will suspend the planned exploration of two locations off the coast of Alaska," Obama said during a press briefing. "Second, we will cancel the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia. Third, we will continue the existing moratorium and suspend the issuance of new permits to drill new deepwater wells for six months. And four, we will suspend action on 33 deepwater exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico."

Obama said the oil industry in past years has "effectively been allowed to regulate themselves." He said Congress needs to address these issues as soon as possible, "and my administration will work with them to do so."

He used the opportunity to expand on his pledge the day before in Fremont when he spoke about how stimulus money has fueled green jobs. He was at the factory under construction by Solyndra, which makes tube-shaped solar gear. The company "snagged the first loan guarantee ($535 million), from the Department of Energy," said Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech. The Fremont installation "will be able to produce 500 MW of solar per year and employ about 1,000 people."

Obama said BP's went on to say, "More than anything else, this economic and environmental tragedy –- and it’s a tragedy -– underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy. Doing so will not only reduce threats to our environment, it will create a new, homegrown, American industry that can lead to countless new businesses and new jobs."

Mark Stout, San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization board member and vice president of renewable energy for Meridian Energy USA, said the spill also has hurt the fossil fuel industry's fight over carbon regulation. "The oil industry is in trouble," he said.