On The President's "Anger Problem" And Our Transferred Culpability


photo via flickr

Much has been made in the media about the president's perceived inability to get mad over the BP oil spill and the inability for either the government or BP to stop the gusher. Obama, or probably more accurately, his handlers, are aware of this criticism and have pushed back with photo ops and speeches to show the president's resolve. Less reported than the president's mood or his flashes of anger is how Americans are viewing this crisis and if they feel any culpability.Here's a video of the president telling Larry King he is "furious at this entire situation because this is an example where somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions."

But, while Obama furrows his brow to show the anger and the pundits debate its authenticity, the public continues to fill up their gas tanks with offshore oil and foreign imports. According to the Energy Information Administration, Americans use 8,989,000 barrels of oil everyday. That's 378 million gallons. The amount is almost triple that of the next largest consumer, China.

So, do Americans see a connection between the demand they create and the incentive for oil companies to take greater risks to meet that demand? NPR looked into this today with an insightful piece. The reporter, Brian Mann, asked drivers filling up their vehicles at a gas station if they feel at all responsible for the BP disaster. The answers are surprising.

Gas is something we all want -- and want cheap. Most of the people I talked to were driving what you'd have to call gas-guzzlers, so I asked whether they feel any personal culpability.

"Uh, no," Carpenter says. When I ask the question, he looks sort of angry.

"You know, we have to survive up here," he says. "The truck is my livelihood. Without it, I wouldn't have my business. So if those gas prices go up, we have to pay it."

I hear this a lot. People are disgusted by the oil spill, but what really has them worried is the idea that gas prices will spike.

Martin says driving a lot is unavoidable, especially in this rural area. "It's an everyday thing that you need in life," she says. "We need gas, so it kind of puts us in a situation."

An opportunity to stop passing the buck
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled this week that he intends to push the Senate climate bill, championed by Sens. Kerry and Lieberman, in the beginning of July. Obama too seems ready to force the bill through, saying in a speech at Carnegie Mellon University last week that the time for action is now.

The Senate climate bill would reduce climate change-related emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050. It's transportation title is very strong, and estimates say it could reduce our demand for oil by a third by 2035.

Like all legislation, the Senate climate bill--an imperfect piece of legislation, as described by its principle author, Kerry--needs public support behind it. The drivers like those profiled in the NPR story, and millions of others need to tell Congress and the president that this is the time to start a green revolution, one that will begin a shift to zero emissions cars and low or zero carbon energy. The world can't afford our irresponsible behavior any longer.

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