As oil and gas prices again climb in response to Middle East travails, the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” has re-entered the national conversation—but it’s President Obama who did the uttering this time. And it sounds like he means it.
Obama mentioned the mantra Tuesday night in a speech about energy independence that came across like the opening shot in his 2012 bid for reelection. Alluding to “D,B,D,” the president said this is no time to be caught up in meaningless rhetoric that stampedes us to nowhere.
We have to end our national addiction to oil, he warned, giving environmentalists brief hope that he was pushing a clean energy agenda. But, before environmentalists could start feeling too warm and fuzzy, the president made clear that he meant… foreign oil. Curing that particular addiction, sez the prez, means we must start drilling domestically—offshore, onshore, in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, too. The Alaska mention stirred some hope among drilling enthusiasts there about the potential for drilling the Arctic.
Just one year after the worst human-caused oil spill in our history, Obama said we’ve learned our lessons and it’s time to start applying them—with deepwater drilling rigs. And, right on cue Wednesday, Shell Oil was celebrating its receipt of the first new deepwater oil drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill.
But drilling for oil is just one way to break our addiction to oil, Obama said. There’s nuclear power to crank up, and a little thing like meltdowns in Japan should not make us shrink from the potential. They did it wrong over there, we’ll do it right over here. As the New York Times pointed out:
The president’s plan includes $36 billion in new loan guarantees for building nuclear power plants, in addition to the $18.5 billion for the program left from the Bush administration.
In fairness, the president did strongly call for investment in clean energy technologies and alternatives such as electric cars and biofuels. But, it’s what he didn’t call for that’s significant. He didn’t call for an end to our addiction to fossil fuels. Not coal, not natural gas, not oil.