Despite the massive economic and ecological damage wrought by the BP spill, and despite the numerous studies by nonpartisan agencies that show increased drilling won't lower prices at the pump, President Obama has taken the bait and is now joining the GOP in calling for expanded offshore drilling.As you'll recall, the last time the president made such a "compromise" (it was really a concession, as yielding increased drilling to the GOP won Democrats precisely nothing in return), the largest offshore oil disaster in American history erupted a few days later. Of course, most vocal conservative and oil-state 'moderate' pols ignored that little mess and went right on calling for more drilling throughout the spill -- meanwhile, not a single meaningful piece of legislation was ever passed to address the reckless safety culture inherent in the oil industry's drilling practices.
What's more, despite all that noise about Obama not drilling enough -- which began pretty much when he took office -- it turns out that the administration was actually pretty oil friendly all along: 2008 saw a spike in domestic oil production from the later Bush years, and 2010 passed levels of drilling not seen since 2003:
So, to recap: Obama's policies, from day one, allowed for as much or more drilling than Bush's, and lead to a steady rise in domestic production. Then, in 2010, Obama called for even more drilling, perhaps in a totally misguided show of compromise to entice the GOP to come to the bargaining table on climate legislation. Now, one year and one devastating oil disaster later, Obama is calling yet again to further expand offshore drilling.
Of course, this is mostly shallow, cynical politics: Voters get angry when gas prices climb above $4 a gallon, and calling for more drilling is step one in the Idiot's Guide to 'Doing Something' About High Oil Prices. It won't -- analysis after analysis reveals that even expanding drilling by huge amounts will do little to impact prices, at least for years and years. Stripping oil subsidies, as the Democrats want to do, won't have an impact either (which is, in fact, why we should quash them).
But it's nonetheless discouraging. Obama has been given a number of opportunities to show true leadership; to use the very visibly disastrous consequences of our reliance on oil to make meaningful calls for ramping up clean energy deployment. And he does mention clean energy here, in the same fleeting, noncommittal way he usually does -- but by pairing it with calls for more oil, it ends up sounding more like the GOP's hollow "All of the Above" energy strategy (read: more oil, gas, and coal). Especially since he hasn't worked to translate the narrative of the spill or high gas prices into cautionary tales.
So, once again, we're given an example of the president's hugely unambitious energy strategy -- wherein it's more important to cater to GOP falsehoods than to put the nation on an actual path to cleaner energy. In the process, he's apparently willing to endanger numerous more pristine offshore habitats and the economies that rely on them.