Flip-flop, tick-tock--the longer oil prices remain above $4 per gallon, the more pressure to drill our way to salvation. Last week, Sen. Obama backed off his complete opposition to offshore drilling, telling the Palm Beach Post that he'd consider including some offshore drilling as part of a more comprehensive energy policy. Yesterday, in trying to stem the barrage of rotton tomatoes and re-focus on his agenda, he spoke about a windfall profits tax on oil companies and $150 billion for investments in renewable energy technologies.
For the first time, reported The New York Times, he also added that he'd consider tapping the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to alleviate some of the immediate pain. While lifting the offshore drilling ban, as many critics have noted, isn't likely to put more money in Americans' pockets anytime soon, tapping this emergency storehouse could deflate prices on a much quicker timeline, at least temporarily. Is this a good thing?
Well, certainly all those affected by high oil prices (that is, everyone), deserves some relief. But despite the current economic punch to the gut, high prices may be exactly what's needed to rip the bandage off of our fossil fuel dependency. Once prices drop, so too will the sense of urgency. The 1970s oil crisis spurred temporary interest in conservation and renewables, but you don't see any legacy of wind farms and small cars today. Back then, however, climate change wasn't a real concern.
Despite his willingness to concede some drilling in his plan, Obama is still a far cry from his opponent, who in a speech yesterday said: "We have to drill here and drill now...not wait and see if there’s areas to explore, not wait and see if there’s a package to put together." Hopefully, if ever an Obama "comprehensive energy policy" is passed, it will indeed put the money where his mouth is. A few quick oil-based salves may be a necessary evil, but we need to seize the moment to make wind, solar and other renewables affordable and competitive--here and now.