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Appetite of US energy use is the point, not Obama's emotion

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The following editorial first appeared in The Charlotte Observer:

Beltway pundits are a-dither about whether President Barack Obama has done a good enough job of on-camera emoting about the oil spill.

For example, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd writes about "the president's strange inability to convey passion over a historical environmental disaster." Politico.com offered this headline: "Does the president need to yell and scream to stop the Gulf oil spill?" Who cares whether Obama was a good enough performer on TV? We should worry instead about whether he'll push this nation to go on a major energy diet. Because if we don't, we are likely to ruin our beaches from our thirst for oil and level the Appalachians in our hunger for coal.

Should this administration have been tougher and required credible environmental plans for this kind of disaster? Without question. The same is true for previous administrations, Democrat and Republican alike. Further, it's painful to watch the hypocrisy of the get-regulators-off-our-backs types now blustering that Obama should have stepped in earlier and done something different about the spill. (Plug it with Grover Norquist, perhaps?)

Here's reality: We Americans lead the world's list of energy hogs. We're addicted to oil, foreign and domestic. We can't ban offshore drilling unless we reduce our oil appetites. To date the only thing that's ever succeeded in that was a spell of $4-a-gallon gas in 2008.

The Gulf spill will ruin a valuable part of our national ecosystem and a chunk of our economy. But eventually, that ecosystem will recover. You can't say that about the Appalachian mountaintops and valleys that coal companies are destroying forever - so that we can waste electricity.

This week Obama promised to push for climate change legislation to ease the nation from its oil and coal addiction. Good. But if you're as angry about the spill as you ought to be, then stop fretting about the president's emotions. Buy less gas. Drive less. Conserve electricity. Until Americans begin a national 12-step program for our fossil fuel habit, we're trapped - regardless of whether Obama starts feeling our pain on camera.



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