Obama Pauses Oil Drilling, But Not Its Consequences

Draw a permanent line in the sand, Mr. President—end our oil addiction

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So, President Obama—under withering criticism from all sides and faced with what may be the worst environmental tragedy in U.S. history—has hit the pause button on further offshore oil exploration, including the Arctic Ocean.

This is great, but only very temporary, news. And it’s the least and most obvious thing the president could do.

He could do no less in the face of so much evidence pouring out of the Gulf of Mexico’s wounded sea floor, flooding out of investigations into how we regulate the oil industry, coming out of opinion polls that show major shifts in how the Amercan public views this president’s actions so far.

Here’s what else this president could do. When he comes to Louisiana on Friday to view scenes of mounting environmental destruction, President Obama should go to the same oil-soaked beach where British Petroleum’s head guy stood a few days ago. The corpses of sea life have greatly mounted since Tony Hayward stood there and vowed to "clean up every drop of oil" his company has spilled.

President Obama should reference Hayward’s words and say that cleaning every drop would be just as easy as bringing back to life all the humans, animals, and other life forms that have already died in this disaster; as easy as preventing more deaths from BP’s spreading oil; as easy as mending the economic havoc this spill is wreaking; as easy as pausing the global warming consequences of our nation’s addiction to oil.

The president should literally take his finger and draw a line in the blackened sands and vow that from this moment forward, from this time and place, America will end its dependence on oil and other fossil fuels that are bringing this planet and its living beings to their knees.

The American public now knows how mired we are in the present. Our eyes are fixated as one on the proof. And they will be fixated on President Obama this Friday when—if—he sets this nation on a bold course to a clean energy future.

From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.