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The energy-independent future that never was

Bernie Sanders, the only democratic socialist in the US Senate, says that the single most important lesson we can learn from the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is that drilling is not the answer. Sanders also calls for a stop on offshore drilling and says that the USA must transform its energy system.

"Further, we must learn that with any risky technology, whether it is offshore oil drilling or nuclear power, it is not good enough to be 99% safe. One event can have a calamitous and irreversible impact. We need a major investigation to understand how this accident occurred. We must make certain that precautions are put in place so nothing like it ever happens again.

This crisis occurred at a time when the United States was considering opening new areas to offshore oil drilling. If there is a lesson to be learned from this disaster, it is that Congress must end that policy. There must be no new offshore drilling. Not now, not ever.

Offshore drilling simply does not achieve the goals that its advocates claim, and it is not worth the risk. If we are serious about wanting to break our dependence on foreign oil and move to energy independence; if we want to lower the cost of energy; if we want to combat climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions; if we want to create millions of new jobs – then more offshore drilling is not the way to go."

In light of the BP oil disaster Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger promptly withdrew his plans on lifting a 40-year moratorium on drilling off the California coast. Earlier Greenpeace have called for an offshore moratorium in the USA and have asked President Barack Obama to cancel Arctic drilling plans. Schwarzenegger should of course be complimented for taking back his support for any new offshore oil drilling plans. But isn't it a bit sad that an “unprecedented environmental disaster” has to take place before anyone cares to realize the dangers of offshore oil drilling (or nuclear energy)?

But then again this might just all be nice talk from politicians and legislators. It will be interesting to see if they will continue to talk about ending offshore drilling and transforming the nation's energy system even after the media storm have calmed. Somehow I doubt it. After all, the current oil spill is nothing new. And we shouldn't forget that the Gulf disaster is only unusual for being so near the US. Elsewhere in the world Big Oil rarely cleans up its dirty mess. And the Western media rarely cares about it.

But one might say that Barack Obama have called for the transformation of the US energy system long before the oil disaster in the Gulf. And yes this is true. In late 2008 when the failing auto industry was the hot topic of the day Obama said that this is "our pattern" and it has to be broken:

"We go from shock to trance. You know, oil prices go up, gas prices at the pump go up, everybody goes into a flurry of activity. And then the prices go back down and suddenly we act like it's not important, and we start, you know filling up our SUVs again.

And, as a consequence, we never make any progress. It’s part of the addiction, all right. That has to be broken. Now is the time to break it."

But then again, this is also nothing new. As Jon Stewart shows the last eight presidents in the USA have all gone on television and promised to move America towards an energy-independent future.

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