Courtesy White HouseNow we’re getting somewhere on the offshore drilling problem. Some progress from the top:
Mr. Obama ordered a further six-month moratorium on new permits for new deepwater oil and gas wells; suspended the planned exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the coast of Alaska; canceled a planned August lease sale in the western Gulf of Mexico; and canceled a proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia. Environmentalists who had opposed the Alaska and Virginia projects hailed the decisions.
Mr. Obama said further moves will be made to strengthen oversight of the drilling industry and enhance safety as a commission he is appointing opens its own six-month inquiry.
(Side note to New York Times: Self-identified “environmentalists” aren’t the only people opposed to putting major marine ecosystems, fisheries, coastal economies, beaches, and rig workers at risk. More Americans now oppose increased offshore drilling than support it.)
“This disaster should serve as a wake-up call that it is time to move forward on this legislation,” he said. “I call on Democrats and Republicans in Congress, working with my administration, to answer this challenge once and for all.”
He also spoke about pushing for an energy-climate bill in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans yesterday. Notably, he didn’t say whether they expressed willingness to cooperate. They’re still the crucial barrier to progress on the issue.
Obama’s comments echo his message yesterday at a solar-panel plant in California, where he said, “I’m going to keep fighting to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation in Washington.” But today’s D.C. presser should give the message more media attention.
He also stressed that his administration is trying really hard to find a way to stop the Gulf leak and cope with the mess it’s created.
“Those who think we were either slow in our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred,” he said.
“We are relying on every resource and every idea, every expert and every bit of technology to work to stop it. We will take ideas from anywhere but we are going to stop it. I know that doesn’t lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and so many Americans.”
Now — with encouraging signs that the “top kill” might finally be plugging up the Gulf gusher — Obama needs to make the larger energy crisis his administration’s highest priority, tapping every resource and every expert and every bit of technology to move the nation to a clean energy economy. There’s still time to make use of this crisis.