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by November 29, 2010
Dear President Obama:
I am writing to ask you to make sure that another devastating offshore oil spill never happens again. You can do it. All you have to do is tighten the permitting process for offshore drilling and permanently ban any expansion of it.
It's rare that a president gets such a golden opportunity to change the course of history. The scale of the spill invites you to make strong policy decisions. That opportunity is the one good thing about it -- please don't let it go to waste. What better argument for green energy and energy efficiency is there? People who might not ordinarily see the need -- say, Louisiana shrimpers -- are primed to make a change.
I know you've said we need the oil. Supporters of drilling threaten high prices at the pump if we don't increase domestic production. But economists say offshore drilling is likely to have no effect on gas prices. And the effect it has on the environment is anything but negligible, as NASA's photos of the spill from space make clear. Add in the cost in dollars of the spill and oil doesn't look like such a great deal anymore.
Offshore drilling, according to the most aggressive estimates put out by the industry, could produce 10 percent of what the country uses after a 20-year ramp-up period. Why don't we use that time to reduce demand by 10 percent or more? The United States is an energy hog. There are so many easy ways for us to reduce our use. And climate change demands that we do so. Be a leader, and show Americans how to make these small sacrifices. Be a good executive and create the combination of carrots and sticks that will make them do it.
Backing offshore drilling is inconsistent with the leadership we need you to show on climate change. Only an opportunistic politician -- not a leader -- talks from both sides of his mouth. Only an opportunistic politician puts his head in the sand about an impending disaster, hoping that his successor will be left holding the bag. Americans want leadership; that's why we elected you.
You may agree with those who say that something like this will never happen again. But those same people never thought it would happen this time. And it was their blase over-confidence that led them to have no emergency plans in place. It's time to stop believing these bumbling masters of industry and do what we know we need to do: decrease our dependence on fossil fuel.
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