Will the BP Oil Spill be President Obama’s Katrina?

by Philip Radford

May 3, 2010

In the immediate aftermath of what is unfolding as one of the most significant ecological and economic disasters in U.S. history, the response from the White House seemed more like damage control for itself rather than damage control for the Gulf States.

The White House postponed its awards ceremony that it scheduled to celebrate the safety of offshore oil drilling.

One must look no further than President Obama’s April 2nd statement to understand why his administration acted so defensively. Addressing critics of offshore drilling (such as yours truly), he said: “It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.”

In the President’s defense, BP, Halliburton, and the other companies behind this spill must take the lead on cleaning up their mess. The White House has scrambled top staff to the Gulf States with great speed. And nobody could accuse the President of leaving any rock unturned in the efforts to contain this disaster.

The difference between this disaster and Katrina is that President Bush saw the storm coming and did nothing. President Obama had few warning signs that this specific event would happen in this place. But now that he knows what may come from his off-shore oil drilling policies, President Obama’s Katrina will come if he continues to promote off-shore drilling and the next disaster strikes.

The destruction of millions of peoples’ livelihoods is not worth our addiction to oil. Greenpeace and the Gulf Restoration Network are calling on the President to reverse his position on off-shore oil drilling. In addition, the President should use this as an opportunity to break our addiction to dirty oil and energy by shifting oil subsidies to plug-in hybrids and ensure that all new cars are clean by investing in a new electricity grid and agreeing with utilities that they can power all new cars starting in 2015 if they produce all new electricity with energy efficiency or clean energy and agree to a cap on carbon.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post on May 3, 2010

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