The timing couldn’t have been worse. Just weeks after US President Barak Obama proposed to open up vast swaths of ocean for offshore drilling, BP's deepwater rig exploded and is threatening to become the worst environmental disaster is US history.
The massive oil spill has sent a chill through the Senate, and has forced Obama to put a freeze on any new offshore drilling until the cause of BP’s spill is known. Democratic senators, especially those from coastal states, are now saying that they won’t accept any offshore drilling provisions in forthcoming energy and climate legislation.
In April, Obama proposed to open up large regions of ocean for drilling to placate some Republican senators who insist that expanded domestic oil production is a key piece of the energy security puzzle. In return, Obama hoped to gather support for clean energy and climate legislation. But as crude continues to pour into the Gulf, Democratic senators are saying Obama’s proposal will be “dead on arrival.” What was a tit-for-tat provision for shoring up Republican support has since been rendered an ineligible carrot. Consequently, the lawmakers may need to find other ways to incentivize 60 senators to pass the clean energy and climate bill.
The spill has changed the minds of some Republicans, too, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. On May 3, he withdrew his support for a new rig to be built off the coast of California, which was to be the first since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill killed over 10,000 birds and coated the white sand beaches with a black slick.
The “drill baby drill” refrain popularized by Sarah Palin is unlikely to be so enthusiastically endorsed in the future. But it has yet to be seen what other compromise measures, if any, will be needed to get clean energy and climate legislation through the Senate.