What a difference 18 days makes. Here was Barack Obama, on April 2, before the BP oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, claiming that oil rigs are safe to justify his position on offshore drilling:
I don’t agree with the notion that we shouldn’t do anything. It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.
Not only does this quote look ridiculous in hindsight, it wasn’t true at the time, as Brad Johnson points out:
Obama’s claim that oil rigs did not cause any spills during Hurricane Katrina is simply false, as the Wonk Room reported in June, 2008, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and other conservatives made the same false claim:
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Caused 124 Offshore Spills For A Total Of 743,700 Gallons. 554,400 gallons were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and pipelines, and 189,000 gallons were refined products from platforms and rigs. [MMS, 1/22/07]
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Caused Six Offshore Spills Of 42,000 Gallons Or Greater. The largest of these was 152,250 gallons, well over the 100,000 gallon threshhold considered a “major spill.” [MMS, 5/1/06]
Now, I’m a forgiving man. If the President wants to peddle right-wing myths to prop up an untenable decision, he’s perfectly within his rights to do so. I just want to see him respond to clear evidence, especially in the wake of this disaster, and factor in the costs of eventual environmental disasters when weighing the costs and benefits of offshore drilling. You have oil about to touch shore by as early as tomorrow. You have an ecological nightmare playing havoc with the food chain. The fact that the Administration is backing off their initial position does show a willingness to include new facts in their analysis:
White House energy czar Carol Browner said the spill will be a factor as the administration evaluates future offshore drilling proposals. Ms. Browner said the spill will become a “point of debate” if Congress discusses climate legislation containing proposals to allow more offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, a plan that has been opposed by environmental groups and some Florida political leaders.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the future of President Obama’s proposal to allow expanded oil drilling could depend on the cause of the spill.
“The president’s announcement [allowing expanded drilling] was the beginning not the end of a process. We don’t know what caused this. Could that possibility change the president’s view point on drilling? Of course,” Mr. Gibbs said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned the White House today that the BP spill would make a mark on any energy bill moving through Congress. And Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who signed off on the Administration’s plans, will now introduce legislation calling for a moratorium.
The images from the Gulf are causing the Administration’s position to collapse. This video won’t help matters. They should just reconsider.