In the past week, there's been a long back-and-forth about how big, exactly, the Gulf oil spill is and how much crude is leaking out of BP's well. First the oil company said 5,000 barrels per day were gushing out. Then that was shown to be false. Now some experts estimate it might be closer to 95,000 barrels per day, and various members of Congress have been accusing BP of a "cover-up" and demanding a precise barrel count. Is any of this even important, though?
Yesterday, Paul Krugman wrote that "President Obama isn’t completely innocent of blame in the current [Gulf oil] spill." He pointed out that the president took too long to appoint a new director of the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling and had a dismal record under President Bush. Krugman also cited the decision by MMS to exempt the Deepwater Horizon drilling operation from a comprehensive environmental review just eleven days before the rig exploded. But Krugman missed a few things in his column.
The New York Times offers some reason to think that, at the very least, the Gulf oil spill might not turn into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history: But on Monday, the wind was pushing the slick in the opposite direction, away from the current. The worst effects of the spill have yet to be felt. And if efforts to contain the oil are even partly successful and the weather cooperates, the worst could be avoided. “Right now what people are fearing has not materialized,” said Edward B.
Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev (Yale University Press, 637 pp., $35) If one were trying to define the lowest point in the long and venerable tradition of American anti-communism, surely it came in 2003, with the publication of Ann Coulter's Treason.
When historians one day dissect the long arc of humankind's use of fossil fuels, they may very well zero in on October 9, 2006, as a turning point for Big Oil. That's when it became clear that the major oil companies--the giants that had survived numerous predicted extinctions and gone on to ever-greater profit and influence--were undergoing a tectonic shift and would either reinvent themselves or die.
George W. Bush and John Kerry probably differ more on energy policy than on any major issue except abortion, yet news organizations have said barely a word about their positions. Energy policy ought to be a limelight issue this election year. Congress has not passed an energy bill in more than a decade. Oil consumption and oil imports continue to rise. Natural gas prices are high and supplies are tight. Average fuel efficiency of new cars is the lowest in 15 years. The United States continues to supplicate to Persian Gulf dictators for petroleum.
Ironies can sometimes be painful. I began my political career in 1966 as the campaign manager for one of the first anti-war congressional candidates in the country. Now, a quarter century later, I find myself supporting a policy in the Persian Gulf that might well lead to a war that many believe could become another Vietnam. Such a position is more and more anomalous, I know, in the Democratic Party. And yet I cannot accept, or be dissuaded by, the analogy with Vietnam. In Vietnam no vital American interests were at stake. The crisis in the Gulf poses a challenge not only to fundamental Americ