Obama having second thoughts on offshore drilling?
by desmoinesdem, Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:35:37 PM EDT
A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama advocated expanding offshore oil drilling in a misguided attempt to reach out to Republicans on energy legislation. The president told a town-hall meeting audience on April 2, "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." Think Progress exposed the inaccuracies in the president's comments at the time, and the April 20 explosion at British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil rig was a tragic reminder of how much can go wrong with offshore drilling. Eleven workers were killed in the accident, and the resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still has not been contained. If it hits the Gulf Coast, the environmental and economic damage will be immense.
Last week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that the tragedy had not given the president second thoughts about offshore drilling:
Obama still believes that "we have to have a comprehensive solution to our energy problems," and the spill did not open up new questions about his drilling plan, [Gibbs] said. [...]
"We need the increased production. The president still continues to believe the great majority of that can be done safely, securely and without any harm to the environment," he said.
However, presidential adviser David Axelrod announced on ABC's Good Morning America program today that
there’s a moratorium on the expansion until the recent spill can be controlled and investigated.
“No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here,” he said.
Mike Lillis is absolutely right:
For the White House, the timing of the spill couldn’t have been worse. If Obama had stuck with his guns in opposing new drilling, he’d be seen as a prophet in the wake of this week’s Gulf disaster. Instead, by trying to make concessions to Republicans — most of whom won’t support a climate bill in any event — he’s simply alienated his conservation-minded supporters to no tangible benefit.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, says that any climate change bill including more offshore drilling will be "dead on arrival" in the Senate. Let's hope that message will resonates with the president. I also hope the administration will follow through on promises to make BP pay the full cost of cleaning up the oil spill.
On a related note, Mike Soraghan reports in the New York Times that BP "joined with other oil companies last year to oppose stricter safety and environmental rules" for oil rigs. I'm not surprised, and I'm not optimistic that the current disaster will lead to significantly stronger regulations on existing rigs.
UPDATE: The statement from the Sierra Club is worth reading.