President Obama gave his official Presidential primetime address on the BP oil spill last night, nearly two months after the well-publicized rig explosion occurred. Now the White House may have been intimately involved in the situation early on, but Obama's speech showed that perhaps nothing much of substance has come from his interaction.
Talk of making BP pay, developing a plan to deal with the devastation and crying out against our anti-regulatory political environment over the last twenty or thirty years is all good stuff. However, the President must be a leader, and any politician can make big, broad claims as Obama did last night. What we needed to hear was immediate and effective action plans. I wouldn't have minded an apology for his kowtowing to the oil companies earlier this year when he spoke in favor of offshore drilling either.
Kate Shepard of Mother Jones might have served Obama well if she were let in on writing the speech and more importantly, the policy decisions that should be made for the good of our country and the planet. Here's a bit of what she had to say:
On the Gulf disaster, Obama could have offered clear direction on several issues: for instance, by clarifying the administration's stance on eliminating the liability cap to protect oil companies from damages following a spill, or by offering a hard number for how much money BP must set aside for the independently administered fund the government has proposed.
Then there are the questions about wider energy and climate policy that remain unanswered. Obama largely avoided the issue of climate change, only uttering the word "climate" once as part of the phrase "a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill." He at least hit the right notes on clean energy, talking about solar power, wind, efficiency, and electric cars, an improvement over his State of the Union address this year, where nuclear power, "clean" coal, and offshore drilling figured heavily. But what his speech lacked was specific directives, which is what the Senate needs at this point. There wasn't even a clear call for a carbon cap, which I fear all but dooms its chances this year.
All of those things and more must be addressed if we want to be assertive in cleaning up the mess in the Gulf and preventing the next environmental catastrophe. You would think that creating more than half a million jobs a year by changing our climate-harming ways would entice Obama and the weak-kneed (and surprise, extremely vulnerable) Congress to do something about the fossil fuel industry. Of course, that would make sense for our long-term prospects, so obviously, they won't do it.
It is easy to call BP incompetent. Hell, they even admit to it themselves. The country is desperate to have a leader grab the reins and make change happen. Yes We Can......if