When this catastrophic oil spill first happened, it seemed obvious that it would galvanize opposition to offshore drilling and, by providing a vivid example of one of oil's many costs, maybe even get us a better climate bill.
Now, apparently, it's the "conventional wisdom" in Washington that this disaster actually makes a comprehensive climate change bill less likely. How the hell? Here's how:
Coastal senators, such as Democrats Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Bill Nelson of Florida, vowed to block expanded drilling in any bill. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) said legislation can't move forward without three "pillars": expanded oil and gas exploration, more nuclear power and a price on carbon-emissions in exchange for the first two.So basically, this disaster has made a few Senators unbendingly opposed to offshore drilling and that has removed an important bargaining chip that Democrats could have offered Republicans in a comprehensive climate change bill.
Now, I'm not sure that's the way it has to be. Jonathan Hiskes thinks we might be able to toss out the existing Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill and pressure Senators to pass something much better, given how bad oil probably looks to the American public right now. But he also complains that Obama isn't capitalizing on this opportunity to publically link this disaster to our reliance on fossil fuels.
One thing's certain though: This spill makes the fracas over Cape Wind look pretty ridiculous.
Image: Deepwater Horizon, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from uscglantarea's photostream