There are legitimate concerns when it comes to placing moratoriums on existing policy. They usually amount to nothing more than political gimmickry to give the appearance of fast action. Call me suspicious — I’m always suspicious when people call for a “freeze” on a certain practice, even if that practice, in this case, deepwater drilling, is in need of serious review.
So when a federal judge this ruled against the Obama administration’s ban on deepwater drilling, I agreed. I wasn’t enthusiastic about it by any means, but from a general policy perspective, I agreed. The thing is, that puts me, and a lot of other rational people, into some strange company. Mother Jones had an amusing, but frightening (as is the typical emotional reaction to anything having to do with the Tea Party) report about Louisiana Tea Partiers calling for more drilling.
This is how, according to the article, a recent rally began:
Things started sensibly enough. We bowed our heads and prayed that God would lift the drilling ban; the president of Terrebonne Parish (below) declared that Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium was an “economic disaster of biblical proportions.” Senator David Vitter’s state director, David Doss, read a statement from the Louisiana Republican, who said he was unable to attend due to a canceled flight but “looks forward to working with you all and we must push forward to end this devastating moratorium on drilling.”
Of course, the article notes the inevitable contradictions of the Tea Party movement, proclaiming that we don’t need government, followed immediately by complaining that if MMS had done its job, we wouldn’t be in this mess. This is the sort of irrational and sentimental stuff that used to be part of the PTA meeting that has somehow permeated into our national policy discourse. At the end of the day, it wasn’t God that lifted the drilling ban, but a federal judge who is just part of a bevy of active Gulf-area judges with financial connections to the gas and oil industry.
A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll indicates that the BP oil spill decreased Americans’ support for offshore drilling, as well as there is support — 58 percent — for a moratorium: a kind of six-month time out. There is also overwhelming support for increased regulation (68 percent) and even more support, at 72 percent, who favor the president’s call to develop alternative sources of energy and reduce oil production and consumption.
There is a serious popular will to be leveraged here. Say what we will about moratoriums, but they are not substitutes for aggressive policy change.