As the White House finally rights a wrong and installs solar panels to heat and energize the East Wing, the Obama administration will have to determine if the installation is merely a symbolic gesture or a signal of robust leadership on climate and energy policy.
One indication of the latter would be strong leadership on a legislative response to the BP oil spill. Unfortunately, the administration might have its hands full doing damage control after the oil spill commission deemed the government’s spill response “either not fully competent” or “not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem.”
However, a swift, decisive course of action to reform Big Oil and hold the industry accountable might be just the solution the White House needs. Faced with the inadequacies of the spill response, America needs to see accountability for corporations and government agencies alike, stronger safety and environmental regulations for offshore drilling, and more rights for both oil rig workers and Gulf coast residents. Such legislation has already passed in the House of Representatives, but the Senate companion bill has yet to hit the floor.
America needs to see that action now. The immediate Gulf crisis is over, but the underlying causes for it must be addressed – before it happens again.
Big Oil is not wasting a moment cozying up to Congress. Just look at the Senate’s failure to approve subpoena power for the oil spill commission. By denying the commission the authority to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony, Congress is shielding companies associated with the spill from being held accountable.
Yes, the Obama administration should be applauded for its move to go solar. But as soon as the party is over, the administration must get back to work on holding BP accountable.
Tyson Slocum is director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.