I’ll bet President Obama right now is regretting his ill-timed March 30 announcement to open up vast expanses of America’s coastline for offshore drilling.
From a strictly PR perspective, much of the coverage to date has centered on how the disaster and clean-up efforts will ultimately reflect on BP – whose “Beyond Petroleum” tagline now seems both more absurd and appropriate than ever. And then there have been critiques of the Obama administration for failing to act quicker, of policies that have allowed more than 3,500 production platforms in the Gulf, and of the rig’s owner, Transocean, who has largely managed to stay out of the limelight.
More interesting to me, though, is how the major environmental organizations have seemed slow to harness public outrage and speak out against offshore drilling and push for clean energy reform. More than a week went by following the explosion before I received any related correspondence from the Sierra Club or NRDC, both of whose email lists I subscribe to. In the meantime, I got notices about Yellowstone’s buffalo in danger, stopping new coal plants in Pennsylvania, and blocking efforts to legalize whale hunting – which made the absence of news about the Gulf spill all the more alarming.
A recent article in the Times argued that this disaster ultimately won’t do much to seriously impede offshore drilling in the Gulf – America is simply too desperate for the oil and the jobs. That prediction will certainly hold true if environmental activists can’t seize this moment as a rallying cry to demand clean energy reform. Only then can we take steps to wean this country off of its oil dependence once and for all.