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Obama's Inaction in the Name of Action

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

Friday, June 18, 2010

Note to President Obama: The catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill did not happen because Americans -- actually, the industrialized world -- have an "addiction to fossil fuels," as you suggested in Tuesday's Oval Office address.

If a dam broke, I wondered, would Obama cite America's prodigious addiction to water? 

Now, I don't blame Obama for the nonstop leak. It looks as though the rig blew, 11 good men died, and experts have been unable to staunch the flow for 50-plus days because things went unconscionably wrong. British Petroleum may well have cut corners and government regulators failed to stop them. If BP execs broke the law, I want the Department of Justice to throw the book at them. Also, Obama is right to insist that BP pay for the devastation caused by this continuing fiasco.

I do fault Obama for changing the subject. I fault him for promoting the notion that if one rig blows, the solution may be to impede offshore drilling.

Item 1. The administration has ordered a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling and stopped issuing new permits for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Associated Press.

Item 2. The president asserted that "part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean" is that "we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water."

Problem: Another part is that environmentalists have blocked drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, off the coast of Santa Barbara on existing platforms and elsewhere.

Item 3. Obama said that he had been willing to consider new offshore drilling "under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe." Is there such a thing as absolutely safe oil operations? No. Tankers delivering oil from faraway wells leak, too.

Then Obama had the cheek to suggest that his decisions are good for "national security." To the extent that some day renewable energy replaces fossil fuels, he's right. But for decades now, presidents from both parties have said as much -- as the share of imported oil in America ballooned from 24 percent in 1970 to nearly 70 percent in 2008.

These latest actions are likely to drive Big Oil to other parts of the world like Africa or South America, where there won't be as many costly regulations.  Then, just to show how serious he is, Obama told America, "The one approach I will not accept is inaction." 

No. Inaction and delay are the predictable results of the policies he has set forth. This isn't correction; it's drift. It's not regulation; it's saying no.

Or as The New York Times reported, "The connection to the spill, of course, goes only so far. While (Obama) called for more wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, neither fills gasoline tanks in cars and trucks, and so their expansion would not particularly reduce the need for the sort of deepwater drilling that resulted in the spill."

I wanted to hear a president talk realistically about U.S. energy policy. Instead, I hear the leader of a no-risk nation where people think that they can pass a law and make solar energy as cheap as coal.

Let me close by noting I do not know a single person who stopped driving because of this catastrophe. I also noticed the president did not suggest anyone do so.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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