The topic du jour among greens this week is the Obama administration’s evident unwillingness to use the Gulf oil disaster as a “teachable moment” about the fact that lurking behind every barrel of oil we consume is a set of probable ecological catastrophes.
I think in some ways the larger issue here is the continued loyalty to Big Oil of Gulf Coast politicians like Mary Landrieu who’s trying to leverage this disaster into bolstering support for more drilling. The point of the Obama administration going soft on drilling in the first place was that the iron math of the Senate makes it impossible to do anything without the support of the Landrieus (“Landrieux”?) of the world. And if the politicians’ whose states are going to be devastated by this are responding by hewing even more tightly to the Big Oil line, then the situation is just hopeless.
That’s not to let Obama off the hook. One thing I liked about him during the primaries was that my health care junkie buddies kept complaining that he didn’t seem serious about the issue, and was much more likely to focus on climate/energy issues instead. That seemed like a good idea to me. But it didn’t happen, and if it didn’t happen when it might have worked it’s definitely not going to happen after the Copenhagen fiasco at a time when the prospects for domestic legislation look terrible. And the prospects will luck much worse in 2011 when there will be many, many, many more Republicans in Congress. Everyone knows all this on some level, but I think many full-time environmentalists are a bit hesitant to discuss in public how bad the outlook for policy change really is.