On Friday April 30th, Bill Maher expressed a lot of frustration with everyone, including the president. And it is a fair question. Just days before the explosion President Obama claimed:
I don’t agree with the notion that we shouldn’t do anything. It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.
Maher lept on this, noting that if Bush had said this and had the same event, people would be mocking him for it. I am pretty sure he is right. On the other hand, he is addressing the issue, questioning his prior plans. And it doesn’t help that BP mis-informed everyone until it was just to late. They were claiming it wasn’t as bad as it was until they had to admit this could be the worst oil related event in modern times.
How Obama handles this will tell us a lot. Unlike Sarah Palin, who mere weeks before complained that the President was doing to many studies and not acting fast enough to start more drilling, he is reassessing the facts (Palin’s opinion is unchanged by the destruction to the environment-really, this is the person the Republicans felt would be a good Vice President?!).
I think the president’s point from the same speech is an honest and fair one:
Here’s the challenge that we have. We don’t yet have the technological breakthroughs that can completely replace fossil fuels. So for the next 10 years, next 20 years, we’re still going to be using oil; we’re still going to be using coal; we’re still going to be using natural gas — we’re still going to be using the traditional sources to fuel our cars, to heat our homes, to run our big power plants, et cetera.
It’s my hope that if we’re aggressive over the next several years, we can substantially cut our energy use in every sector while still maintaining our high levels of economic growth. So, for example, at the announcement where I talked about offshore drilling, I did so in front of an F-18, a fighter jet, that is actually going to be run half on biomass. So I was joking with the pilot — I said, so this thing runs on vegetable oil. But they’re going to break the sound barrier using biomass as fuel.
While the response to the catastrophe has not been perfect, this is a honest point. We are not at a place where we can pretend oil no longer matters. It’s going to be a process to get off our oil dependency. Maher is right, that is something we should have seriously been working on since the 70’s. And by not treating the issue seriously for the passed forty years has resulted in dependency on unstable countries who do not like us. I suspect drilling is not something that can be totally avoided. But it should only be done in an effort to work our way away from it entirely.