The BP oil explosion is now probably the single greatest environmental disaster in American history. The disaster is still getting worse and will continue to do significant financial, ecological and public health damage for years and possibly decades. We are only beginning to see a small amount of its effects, and it’s already horrifying. The catastrophe has sent popular support for offshore drilling into a free fall. Yet in November, we’ll choose between the party promoting increased offshore drilling (Republican) and the party promoting increased offshore drilling (Democratic).
The leadership of both major parties still supports increased deep-water offshore drilling. Just today, Sen. John Kerry claimed that we must pass the Kerry-Lieberman energy bill because of the BP oil disaster, even though it would expand offshore drilling. President Obama still has not admitted his error and continues to back his new stance in favor of expanded offshore drilling. While some Democrats like Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) have been strong on opposing expansion, the party leadership is still fully behind it as part of comprehensive energy reform.
Republicans have not ended their love affair with increased drilling, either. The Republican Senate leadership so desperately wants more offshore drilling that it is fighting the effort to lift the liability cap on oil companies. This makes the government effectively subsidize companies’ risk with a massive corporate welfare program.
This is something seriously wrong with our democracy. Deep-water offshore oil drilling is currently causing perhaps the greatest environmental disaster in our nation’s history. Expanding offshore drilling no longer has plurality support in this country, and support will only decrease as more oil hits land. Yet both major parties in our two-party system are fighting to expand the cause of the crisis. No wonder popular opinion of both parties is so low.
Democrats are missing an attempt to separate themselves from Republicans and get on the right side of history and the electorate. Instead, they are making the election following this massive environmental disaster into this choice: between the party that supports increased offshore drilling and the party that supports increased offshore drilling.
It is not too late for Democrats to do the right thing. But I see no sign they plan to change course now.