The Petroleum Industry’s Legislators Want Oil, Not Olive Branches

Wouldn’t you know it?

One day I agree to stop tarnishing this exalted space with four-letter words, and the next day the president goes and vows to open enormous stretches of protected coastline to oil drilling.  Here’s the G-rated version of my reaction.

Beltway insiders tell us that the administration is hereby extending an olive branch to legislators who are likely to oppose upcoming energy and climate change legislation.

Oh, I get it.

By creating a new, coastal playpen for the most profitable and most destructive industry in human history, the president is hoping to demonstrate good faith to the conservative, moderate, and liberal legislators who live in that industry’s back pocket — the same corporate tools* who embarrass themselves and our government by denying the peer-reviewed science of global climate change.

That’s how we’re going to pass climate change legislation and ensure the planet remains inhabitable for more than a few more generations?  By giving a gift to the industry that brought us global warming, irreparable environmental degradation, and unspeakable human rights abuses?

Now, I hate to be a nay-sayer**, but I’d like to remind the administration that it took a similarly conciliatory, let’s-all-work-together approach to another recent, major legislative effort.  And how many red elephants and blue dogs jumped on board for health care reform?

So if the president is proposing this bad idea in order to bring wavering legislators on board for the climate change bill, recent history suggests he’s wasting his time.  Or more accurately, he’s sacrificing long stretches of protected waters with no likely return on the investment.

When I read the administration’s announcement on the expansion of offshore oil drilling, I see just one thing:  sad testimony to the fact that our most successful progressive leaders still assume we can only achieve one ideal by sacrificing another.

Can we do better?  Yes, we can.  Especially when reckless choices masquerade as political pragmatism.


*A five-letter word.

**Though rhetorically convenient, this statement is not precisely true.