The Political Impact of the BP Gulf Spill So Far
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In the wake of just about any major disaster, there are bound to be a bevy of pronouncements from politicians -- condemning it, exploiting it, explaining it, and so on and so forth. And in a major ongoing disaster, where, say, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are pouring into a fragile ecosystem every day, those statements and reactions are even more complicated and harder to pin down. But the germ of genuine policy and action can also be planted during the course of such a disaster -- so in an attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff, let's look at the political impact of the gulf spill so far.
Of course, after the oil disaster is over, many of those grand pronouncements will amount to diddly -- this is politics, remember. But for now, here's what's happening:
Obama put a moratorium on further offshore drilling expansion, holding up a move he had made just weeks earlier doing the opposite. This is an obvious, politically-motivated move -- his true mettle on the issue will be tested when and if he decides to change his mind about the offshore drilling expansions for good.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated (sorry, couldn't resist) offshore drilling plans in his state.
Harry Reid said that this spill should help rallying support for clean energy legislation, like the bill crafted by Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman that's waiting in the wings in the Senate. Lieberman says that the oil disaster won't change anything regarding the drilling provisions included in the bill. The general consensus from the pundits seems to be that the disaster can only mean bad news for the bill, since it counted on oil industry support by making drilling concessions. Then again, what do the pundits know?
Politicians and political thought leaders (yes, I hate to say it but I do indeed live in a world where Sarah Palin counts as a 'thought leader') continue to call for the expansion of offshore drilling anyways. These include Democratic Mary Landrieu, whose commitment to the oil industry has been pretty breathtaking, considering how politically volatile the situation is right now,, the aforementioned Sarah Palin, who still invokes the Drill, Baby, Drill mantra at her speaking engagements, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who is continuing to call for drilling off the coast of his state, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, who's still calling for offshore drilling expansion in a Republican energy bill.
Finally, there's been some speculation that Obama will eventually use the oil spill as part of his platform to revitalize the momentum behind clean energy legislation, as well as talk that it will lead to more focus on nuclear power. But again, the oil disaster is an unpredictable beast -- and so too are the politics swirling around it.
Brian Merchant is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor living in Brooklyn, NY.