August 5, 2008
Once again, "president-in-waiting" (that's what he thinks) Barack Obama has reversed course on a major policy issue, and once again he did so smoothly and effortlessly that hardly anyone noticed. Last time it was about whether to unilaterally withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq (see my July 4 blog post), and now it's about drilling for domestic petroleum. Under pressure from the McCain campaign,* he now says he would support allowing drilling in U.S. territories and offshore areas that are currently off-limits for environmental reasons. See Washington Post. Well, you can't blame him for facing up to reality every once in a while.
* McCain is passing out tire pressure gauges labelled "Obama's energy plan" to make fun of Obama's crazy claim that if everyone kept their tire pressure properly inflated, there would be no need for additional petroleum supplies. Actually, this raises a fundamental issue that few people appreciate: If energy prices rise to a high enough level that reflects the true relative scarcity of the commodity in question (oil, coal, etc.), then people will make those "conservation" efforts out of sheer self-interest. It's what Ronald Reagan used to call the "magic of the market place."
Even as Obama gets a "reality check," some environmental activists are digging in for total resistance. In today's Washington Post the National Resources Defense Council ran a full-page ad mocking the offshore drilling proposal as Bush's "snake oil" just because the benefits may take several years to be realized. As I wrote on June 19, just because it's a "slow fix" doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried. In fact, offshore oil rigs have been found to create a hospitable habitat for various kinds of mollusks and fish, like a reef. As long as there are no leaks, that is...