An offshore oil plaform
An offshore oil plaform - 
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Bob Moon: After decades of being off-limits, the East Coast of the U.S. is about to be opened to oil drilling. Exploration will also be expanded in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the North coast of Alaska. President Obama is expected to announce the new policy today at an energy security event with his Interior Secretary. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman joins us live now with details. Good morning, Mitchell.

Mitchell Hartman: Good morning, Bob.

Moon: What's behind this new policy?

Hartman: Well, you know even when he was a candidate, President Obama said he wanted to expand drilling in a targeted way to reduce dependence on foreign oil. There's also a strong political dimension here -- oil companies have been itching to drill offshore, and their allies in Congress might get behind climate-change legislation if they get thrown this bone. That's the hope.

Moon: And where would drilling be permitted now?

Hartman: Well after geological and environmental surveying, which of course would take several years, things could open up along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to Delaware, but not farther north, the Eastern end of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic coast north of Alaska. Some places would stay off-limits, including Alaska's fishing grounds in the Pacific and everything from Washington down to California. The first lease, off Virginia, is already in the works. I asked Tony McAuley, who edits the Economist's Energy Briefing, how much oil there might be:

Tony McAuley: For the Virginia area, for example, I've seen a figure from just the oil side of something on the order of 130 million barrels, which is in a broad scheme of things not that much. In the extended parts of the Gulf, the kind of numbers are more on the order of several billion barrels and significant amounts of natural gas as well.

Moon: Would this amount of oil make a dent in U.S. supplies?

Hartman: Well, environmentalists say not really, and anyway the risks of drilling are too great. But McAuley says between all the new fields that could open up, this could really reduce our dependence on foreign oil in coming years.

Moon: Hmmm. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman. Thanks.

Hartman: You're welcome.