By Congressman Michael Turner
The oil spill, currently devastating the Gulf of Mexico and the coastline of several states, is an environmental and economic disaster. Even as BP, the affected states and the federal government try to contain the spill, there is an urgent need to discover what went wrong so we can prevent a similar crisis in the future. Simultaneously, there should be a full review of our initial response, because it is obvious we were unprepared.
Congress and President Obama have an obligation to closely monitor the clean up, demand that BP be held to the highest environmental remediation standards, and fully shoulder the expense. In the coming weeks there will be many efforts to assign blame and calls for swift punishment.
More importantly we need answers.
Before last month, most of us probably believed that a disaster like this could never happen. It would be reasonable for us to assume that extraordinary safeguards would be put into place before an oil rig could even be constructed offshore – and that even more stringent requirements would be met before one drop of oil is pumped out.
We need to know quickly; how this could have happened and what changes we need to make now to ensure it never happens again?
From a policy perspective, learning from this experience is so important, because off shore oil production will continue to be part of our overall energy policy for years to come. Even huge investments in green technologies like wind and solar power, or natural gas and nuclear energy, cannot completely replace our need for oil. And the more oil we can produce from our own sources the better off we will be as a country. It is a matter of economic security and national security.
The Obama administration was correct when it recently moved to make off shore drilling a possibility in several areas previously considered off limits. This decision was a move away from an anti- offshore production bias the president had during his campaign in 2008. There is no doubt the reversal was driven by the hard realities of the nation’s growing energy demand and the fact that we have been under-utilizing our own natural resources.
There is bi-partisan agreement in Washington that one path to a stronger economy is through investment in the energy sector. Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created by expanding our energy portfolio, but it is unrealistic to expect that emerging technologies – that everyone supports – can at this time replace traditional sources that fuel our economy. The Gulf oil disaster cannot weaken our resolve to continue on a path to energy independence, but not without regulatory policies that allow no room for an error of this magnitude.
It is worth noting that even government leaders from the states hit hardest by this spill are not calling for an end to off shore oil exploration and drilling. In fact, some of them are among the most vocal advocates. They realize, as I think most do, that the lesson to be learned from this disaster is that there is a continuing need to improve technology, protocols and practices. Safety has to be the top priority.
I join many of my colleagues in Congress who have called for thorough investigations into the cause of the BP spill and our government’s response.