Gulf Oil Spill Doesn’t Spread To Voting Booths

by Ben Lieberman on November 9, 2010

in Blog

Call it the election-day dog that didn’t bark – or maybe the oiled bird that didn’t fly – the BP oil spill had virtually no impact at the polls on November 2nd.   The fact that the biggest ecological scare of the summer was nearly forgotten by fall says a lot about where the American people stand on energy and environmental issues.

Less than five months after President Obama gave a primetime address hyping the Deepwater Horizon spill as “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced,” there is scant evidence that even a single Congressional race was affected by it.  This was not for lack of trying.  In the first few months after the April 20th spill, many Congressional Democrats joined environmental activists and some in the media in blaming pro-drilling Republicans for their complicity in the so-called Gulf disaster. 

For a while, it was fashionable to ridicule those who had chanted “drill baby drill” during the 2008 race.   Opponents of domestic drilling thought they had a defining issue heading into the midterms.

But rather than having to eat their words and go home in defeat, the “drill baby drill” crowd is back – and they’ll be returning to Washington with quite a few new allies. 

Ironically, it was not the spill itself but Obama’s overreaction to it in the form of a job-killing moratorium on offshore drilling that really angered voters in Louisiana and other impacted states.  The only reason the Obamatorium didn’t hurt Democratic candidates there was that they were just as vocal as Republicans in their opposition to it.

 So what does all of this say about voters?  For one thing, it shows that they are getting wise to environmentalist alarmism and exaggeration.   Just as the drumbeat of doom and gloom predictions about global warming didn’t generate public support for cap and trade, neither did the equally-overblown claims of spill–induced ecological devastation create a backlash against offshore drilling.     And, given the still-struggling economy and stubbornly-high unemployment, the electorate is not going to accept costly solutions to overstated threats.   The drilling ban, like cap and trade, would have raised energy costs and destroyed jobs.  As such, it is a nonstarter with the American people and their newly-elected representatives.  

 But has the Obama administration gotten the message?  Not yet.  While admitting that cap and trade legislation is dead, the President coyly describes it as “just one way of skinning the cat,” and added that “I am going to be looking for other means to address this problem,” including EPA regulations that seek to achieve the same ends.   Similarly, the President announced with great fanfare – shortly before the elections – that he is lifting the drilling moratorium.   But this policy change has thus far made no difference as the administration continues to bottle up all new drilling with regulatory red tape and indefinite delays.   

In other words, the same energy and environmental policies that the public rejected when the administration and Congress tried to push them through the front door will be making a return via the back door.   The incoming Congress has been elected to stop this from happening.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: