By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
I’m all for optimism, but is it possible President Barack Obama is being a bit too optimistic in his promises about the Gulf oil disaster? This week he told reporters that,
"Things are going to return to normal" along the stricken Gulf Coast and the region's fouled waters will be in even better shape than before the catastrophic BP oil spill.
When? In the third millennium? This is optimism on steroids. Marshlands and inland waterways have been destroyed. Habitats for fish and wildlife will be oil-covered for decades if not longer. Jobs in critical U.S. food and other industries will not return to normal in our lifetimes. We won’t even know the extent of the damage until months or years after the oil stops pouring into the Gulf from the pipeline that used to be part of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. And the president promises us “better”?
Yesterday on my PBS program, To the Contrary ith Bonnie Erbé, I interviewed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who is a critical part of the president’s team and is working to help Gulf Coast laborers who’ve been thrown out of work find jobs. Secretary Solis had a much more realistic view of the situation in the Gulf than her boss and I asked her if she agreed that things will soon be better:
I’m not a scientist, I'm not a geologist, but my feeling is that that the president is going to be articulating his vision to see that we can kind of wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and just by looking at the devastation alone and knowing that we don’t have all the science to control that spill right now and that we’re trying very much to change that so that we can control it, just gives the public a lot of sense that you know maybe there are others ways of providing electricity, energy resources that we can continue to keep our economy going instead of just focusing in on drilling…
We’ve made investments in the Department of Labor through the Recovery Act, already $750 million has gone out to help provide training in new technologies, $500 million alone from my department went into job training for green jobs and solar instillation, lithium batteries all types of new manufacturing that’s clean. And it isn’t any different in terms of steel workers or welders; it’s the same technology in some cases, or talents that can be redirected to provide a source, a lesser carbon footprint.
I agree with the secretary and with the president that the sooner we change over to renewable sources of energy, the better off we and indeed the entire world will be. And the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster has certainly moved public opinion away from supporting offshore drilling and toward green energy sources. But it’s still a transition that will be slow, costly and painful. It’s one we should have gotten serious about years ago. But I think it will be many, many years before most Gulf Coast residents agree with the president’s assessment that life down there will be better than before the BP disaster.
- Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on the Gulf oil spill.
- See which members of Congress get the most from the oil industry.
- See photos of the Gulf oil spill disaster.