Will Environmentalists Capitalize On the Moment the Gulf Spill Creates?
Since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast on April 20, a favorable shift in attitudes toward the environment has occurred, as a new Gallup poll indicates. “For the last few years, Americans’ environmental concerns declined as the public placed a higher priority on pocketbook concerns like the economy and energy, likely due to the poor U.S. economy,” states the Gallup poll conducted on May 24 and 25. “However, in just two months’ time, that trend has reversed, and the pro-environment position has regained the strength it showed for most of the last decade.”
The Gallup poll results showed that 55 percent of respondents say “protection of the environment” should be given priority over energy production, while 39 percent say the opposite. In March of this year the results were reversed, with 50 percent saying energy production should be given priority, and 43 percent saying environmental protection should be the priority. This is the second largest percentage, in 2007 it was 58 percent, favoring the environment since the question was first asked for poll respondents.
Remarks made by Fox News’ Brit Hume on May 3 about the oil spill and offshore drilling highlight the real chance environmentalists have to create a movement for weaning the U.S. off of fossil fuels.
“Think about what the environmentalists have always said about this. Is it’s not a matter of if there’ll be a disaster of this kind resulting in this kind of offshore drilling, it’s only a matter of when. This verifies that argument, and becomes a powerful factor in the debate over what to do next. I don’t see any way around the political reality that this will set back the cause of offshore drilling in the United States.”
Obama administration needs to seize the moment
On May 30, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released the Department of the Interior’s written description of six-month offshore drilling moratorium. President Obama announced the new moratorium last week. A moratorium on new wells in waters less than 500 feet deep was announced on May 6. The new moratorium repeals the May 6 ban, but expands limitations on drilling in waters more than 500 feet deep for the next six months.
Oil companies can continue to retrieve oil from already constructed new wells. The new moratorium also allows environmental waivers to be granted to drilling plans. The drilling plan for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico was approved with an environmental waiver.
The Center for Biological Diversity is calling on Salazar to take the following actions immediately:
- Remove former BP executive Sylvia Baca from her job as deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Salazar appointed Baca in June 2009..
- Ban the use of environmental waivers for offshore exploration and production plans.
- Rescind all drilling approvals issued with environmental waivers.
- Rescind the Interior Department’s plan to open up new areas on the Atlantic Coast, eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska to offshore oil drilling.
- Permanently ban all new offshore oil drilling, beginning in Alaska.
If this post has stirred you, join other environmentalists in sending a message to President Obama by signing the Care2 petition, Ban New Offshore Drilling.