Senators Still Aren't Moved by Gulf Oil Spill

Offshore drilling still favored as monster oil slick stays offshore

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The as-yet unrestrained Gulf oil spill has produced a gusher of political rhetoric along with its 200,000+ daily gallons of oil, but positive political action is just a trickle so far.

Aside from some hardly permanent pauses in President Obama’s offshore oil program, and two state governors’ change of heart, many politicians seem to be straddling a fence that stretches from here to November.

Take the U.S. Senate, for example, where climate change and energy legislation are stuck like tarballs, according to The New York TimesThe New York Times takes another look at what’s going on in the Senate.> More than two weeks of dire oil spill headlines haven’t yet moved swing voters to greener positions, says The Times. Not even senators from gulf coast states in the bullseye of that ominous, growing mass of oil offshore.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is flummoxed by his colleagues.

"People up and down the coast are in a panic," he said. He can’t understand why senators in the spill-kill zone aren’t as upset as he is, and ready to do the right thing by turning their backs on expanded drilling off their own shorelines.

Maybe it’s because that mass of oil is more ominous than "real" right now because it is still mostly offshore. Are they counting on wind and tides and crossed fingers to keep it at bay forever? Is it because the visual body count so far—of oil-soaked birds and turtles and fish and other creatures—is still too small to make the public gasp loud enough for senators to hear. The invisible carnage taking place in the depths and far offshore apparently doesn’t make for good, visual sound bites.

Or, maybe the senators are waiting on a technological miracle fix by BP, so they can brag about how American ingenuity has done it again. Can’t we all just move on?

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