As oil from a collapsed drilling rig continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico and the coast braced for environmental devastation, the political impact of the accident began to draw speculation. President Obama, speaking Sunday from Venice, La, where relief efforts are being coordinated, called the spill a “potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.” If he's right, what might itmean for the future of offshore drilling and climate change legislation?
Paul Krugman in the New York Times wonders if this will prove to be a wake-up call for the president to take charge of the climate change debate. "Will America take heed? It depends a lot on leadership. In particular, President Obama needs to seize the moment; he needs to take on the “Drill, baby, drill” crowd, telling America that courting irreversible environmental disaster for the sake of a few barrels of oil, an amount that will hardly affect our dependence on imports, is a terrible bargain."
Sarah Palin writing on her Facebook page argues that, despite the possible risks involved, domestic oil drilling should continue apace. "I repeat the slogan “drill here, drill now” not out of naiveté or disregard for the tragic consequences of oil spills – my family and my state and I know firsthand those consequences. How could I still believe in drilling America’s domestic supply of energy after having seen the devastation of the Exxon-Valdez spill? I continue to believe in it because increased domestic oil production will make us a more secure, prosperous, and peaceful nation."
Keith Harrington of environmental blog Grist thinks the timing of the oil spill may help produce a stronger climate change bill. "While it may be difficult and distasteful to see anything positive in a tragedy like this, the truth is this inevitable disaster couldn’t have happened at a more politically critical time -- just as lawmakers were moving to codify the condemnation of our coastlines. In the same way that the Big Branch mining disaster caused elected officials to take a hard look at mining safety, one can only hope that the Deepwater Horizon spill will serve as the powerful wake-up call the president and Congress need to reverse the foolhardy course they have chosen regarding offshore drilling."
William Dietrich at the Huffington Post says that, just like the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, things will go back to the way they were, until the next crisis. “But the threat will remain, vigilance will relax, and risks will run higher as the world gets more desperate for oil and drills in ever-more-inaccessible places...until we make real strides in weaning from fossil fuels -- which, incidentally, would help save the climate, save the oceans, and get us less entangled in endless wars -- it's almost certain I can recycle this blog post again in 10 or 20 years.”
Bill Kristol, sitting on a Fox News panel, argued that drilling, by and large, is a safe activity. "The oil spill, itself, I don't think will be a huge disaster over the medium and long term, honestly." He added that drilling is, "very environmentally clean, except when there is a disaster like the spill."