Last Friday’s hot news of the day, spun for your listening and viewing pleasure, was the rather breathless report that Barack Obama had reversed his stance on offshore drilling, which was, of course, viewed as the proverbial flip-flop. I really wish that term would leave politics altogether. It gives the press and public alike permission to ignore nuance and complexity and boil things down to simplistic, jingoistic phrases that mean nothing, but get voters who look for these types of simple and mostly inaccurate phrases excited.
After reading more careful reports and expanded comments by Obama, I’m not seeing a flip-flop. What he said was what he’s been saying all along. If the choice is gridlock or progress, he’s willing to compromise to make progress. In his own words:
“My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices,” Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in an interview with the Palm Beach Post. “If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.”
He has evidently praised, but not endorsed, a proposal for limited offshore drilling of existing leases off the coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. California coasts will be excluded. Obama rightly expresses skepticism that offshore drilling would solve any problems. He should hold onto that position, and not trade even limited access to coastlines for an alternative energy plan. I believe this is one battle that can be won on the facts, provided that he chooses to lead the way and Democrats, progressive and bluedog alike, make a decision to be creative, innovative, and communicate clearly.
I don’t support expansion of offshore drilling in any form. I am a Californian; hence, photos of California coastline, but consider these to be a protest of any drilling offshore, whether Florida, the Gulf Coast, Alaska or California. Unfortunately, the McCain camp and Republicans have figured out that the issue is big enough to push hard with the American public.
Here’s the spin, based on the cliche’ invented by Newt Gingrich. They call it “Drill Here, Drill Now.”, and they’ve figured out that there is enough traction around the idea that they can get away with it.
On Friday, Rep. John Culberson and his House colleagues staged a political grandstand play on Twitter and Qik, intending to leave the impression that the House Democrats would rather have gone on vacation than deal ways to ease the current gas prices.
When Nancy Pelosi adjourned Congress for the August break, Culberson and his colleagues staged a protest after the fact via social media, claiming that Pelosi was blocking an up or down vote on the “drill here, drill now” initiative. Purely political, the intent was to have a reason to shift the blame from the rightful shoulders of Bush, Cheney and the group that stonewalls all efforts to close the Enron loophole to the Democrats, ostensibly for blocking this vote.
Here’s something for the masses. Let’s call it “Use it or Lose it”. The oil companies are not exploring the leases they already have. I see no reason to reward them by adding billions of dollars of assets to their balance sheet by giving them rights to drill previously forbidden areas when they have not touched over 57 million acres of existing leases on public lands.
Simple enough, right? They can use those, or lose them. And while we’re at it, let’s also close that Enron loophole which will curb the rampant speculators driving prices up, and revise patent laws so that they cannot snap up the patents and stonewall alternative energy ideas, designs and sources to keep them from actually being implemented.
What Obama and the Democrats need to wrap their heads around is this: They are operating from a position of strength. They need to quit acting like whipped dogs and start really working toward shaping a policy with long-term and short-term implications. The windfall profits tax is definitely warranted. So too, the idea to shorten the expiration of unused patents, rather than allowing for ownership forever.
Offshore drilling is a Republican invention that they’re spoon-feeding the American public like the pablum we’ve gotten used to from the Bushes. Let’s change the political landscape, not the landscapes on our shores.
If you’re interested in more thoughts on offshore drilling, corporate profits, and use of social media as a tool for political grandstanding, listen to Friday’s NewsGang Live. I think it’s one of our best shows, and we spend the majority of it talking about these very issues.