By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
One wag, commenting on the Gulf oil spill, said there's nothing like wave after wave after plume after plume of greasy, smelly slush covering birds, fish and beaches to turn the American public off of off shore oil drilling. And so it is! But remarkably not as much as an environmentalists might hope.
Although the Gulf spill has lowered the percentage of Americans who support offshore oil drilling, a new Pew Forum poll finds a stunning 54 percent still support it. So it will take more than a major, irreversible environmental disaster to persuade gas glugging Americans to trade in their pickups for hybrids. I see. According to Reuters:
Congressional pressure on federal agencies, especially the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, is likely to lead to tighter rules for the oil and natural gas sector. The Senate Homeland Security committee kicked off a series of hearings examining the government's role in the cleanup of the massive oil leak threatening the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday with testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Congress is clearly ahead of the American public on this one, despite claims by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that shutting down offshore oil drilling would drive gas prices to $14 per gallon.
A ban on all offshore oil drilling is not even under consideration in any quarter, but stricter rules and higher payments for spills are being prepared in legislative form. Congress is likely to raise the cap on damage payments by oil companies from its current $75 million dollars to a figure in the billions. Let's hope the American public catches up with Congress soon.