A Crude Awakening!

Since the days when Jimmy Carter was president, environmentalists were calling for energy conservation and alternative fuels. Unfortunately, the only time these ideas gained any traction was when gasoline and heating oil prices spiked. But once families adjusted to the higher prices, they went right back to their old ways.

Things may be different this time. The only real blessing of the BP oil disaster is that it has focused attention on the consequences of oil. The average American citizen could live with spills in the Arctic or Canada or Kuwait or other faraway places. They could live with climbing gas prices. They could ignore the photos of dying birds, dolphins and fish. And they could live (they think) with climate change.

But now that crude oil and tar balls are washing up on their favorite beaches… Now that’s a real problem!

There may never be a better time to change our energy policy. BP, Halliburton, Exxon and the rest of the oil spillers have less influence on the Democratic-controlled Congress. And they hold no sway with the Obama White House. So it’s time to act! It’s time to end the subsidies for oil exploration. It’s time to subsidize solar, wind and other renewables. And it’s time to redouble our efforts to conserve energy.

Congress should act now to push through a strong energy bill with caps on carbon emissions before the mid-term elections. It should raise the cap on damages to be paid by oil companies. And if Republicans try to block it, Democrats should use every parliamentary tactic at their disposal. What do they have to lose? Republicans have used filibusters and other tricks to stall Democratic initiatives. There is no longer any hope for bipartisanship. Even if it costs Democrats control of the House and Senate in the next election, at least the losing candidates could go home knowing they’ve done one of the best things possible for their constituents and their country. And, along with a new energy policy, that’s something that’s long past due.