“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." – Rahm Emannuel, November 2008
Talk about a fair warning.
With the attention of the nation focused on the unfolding environmental disaster in the gulf, President Obama is taking his top advisor’s words to heart to push for the passage of the much maligned climate – or “cap and tax” – bill.
This bill, which passed the House last year, has been stalled in the Senate for months, presumably so lawmakers can figure out how to get the public to swallow this job killing piece of legislation.
Now, instead of focusing on the cleanup or helping the people whose livelihoods are directly affected by the spill, Obama is turning his attention to ramming yet another one of his agenda items through Congress.
How very typical. Any day now I expect to see Obama pitching this bill while holding an oil drenched pelican and doing his best to look Presidential and appropriately concerned about the environment all at the same time.
Last week, Obama asked Congress to eliminate certain oil company tax breaks and pass the climate bill to help the nation wean itself from a dangerous “fossil fuel addiction.”
This from a man who just three months ago allowed the expansion of off shore drilling only to institute a moratorium when it was politically expedient to do so.
Do we have a dangerous fossil fuel addiction? Absolutely. Is it grossly opportunistic to use an environmental disaster as an excuse to force this piece of climate legislation through Congress? Definitely.
At a time when you would expect the President to be busy mobilizing all the resources at his disposal to protect our shores and contain the spill, he was instead delivering a speech at Carnegie Mellon University with the sole purpose of turning public anger into political gain.
"If we refuse to take into account the full cost of our fossil fuel addiction — if we don't factor in the environmental costs and national security costs and true economic costs — we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future," Obama said.
Sure, just like we would have missed an opportunity to provide quality, affordable medical care for all if health care reform had not addressed the serious "crisis" facing the nation. I don't think so.
There is nothing wrong with using this disaster to emphasize the importance of developing alternative, clean fuel sources. There is something very wrong with using it as a means to force through legislation that will have little or no impact on the environment, but will have a devastating effect on the economy.
Obama has vowed that he will find the votes to pass cap and tax. After seeing what happened with health care reform, I have no doubt he will try his level best over the next few months to do just that.
In the meantime, fossil fuel users beware. The House has already taken advantage of this disaster to increase the tax on oil from eight to 34 cents a barrel to finance the cleanup of oil spills in the nation’s waterways. If it passes the Senate, expect to see prices at the pump rise immediately.
Of course increased gas prices are nothing compared to what is coming if cap and tax passes. Until now, Obama did not have the votes to get this legislation passed. Now that he has another “serious crisis” on his hands, he may have a chance.
It is too bad he is not more interested in dealing with the oil spill than using it to his political advantage.
Kristi Reed is a reporter for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.