Oil Spill Commission: “America’s Oil Addiction Is Bad…”

The President’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling seems unlikely to avoid a conclusion that is all too familiar to anyone who is working to create a more sustainable, energy future for the United States: we are addicted to oil, it is killing us, and we, as a nation, don’t seem willing to do the hard, yet possible, work to fix it.The Commission met last week to deliberate for the first time over their preliminary findings on what led to the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster and their insight on what America can do to prevent and mitigate the negative impacts of offshore oil drilling. While the findings they discussed in the 3.5-hour meeting are encouraging in the depth and breadth of the issues they seem to be trying to tackle, the discussion created a sad sense of being on a merry-go-round with no end in sight.The Commissioners stated early in the meeting that they felt that, although not definitively part of their mission, which is generally to: “develop options for guarding against, and mitigating the impact of, oil spills associated with offshore drilling” , they would have to issue their recommendations within the context of the nation’s energy policy, with the intent of moving away from offshore drilling. And, many, but not all, of them seemed to display a sense of personal frustration with the fact that regardless of how fast, deep, and often the country tries to “drill, baby, drill” , it is nowhere near possible for us to ever become energy independent relying only on fossil fuels.They also discussed the dangers for our national security, which is largely based upon easily accessible energy, if we do not expand offshore drilling, yet asked what legacy we are leaving to future generations if all we do right now is go into ever-more treacherous depths and sensitive environments, both offshore and on, to take the last bits of our nation’s oil and gas reserves.The Commission’s report is due to the President on January 12th, 2011. However, since they have not been granted subpoena power, they have been unable to demand testimony from reluctant witnesses at BP and other oil companies, calling into question whether their report will actually offer much of significance. There’s a small chance Congress will act on granting subpoena power when they return for their lame-duck session on November 15th, but Commission members fear that will be too late, as their next and final set of meetings is expected in early November. Johanna Polsenberg is GRN’s D.C. Consultant

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