I have to agree with James Fallows that, overall, Obama’s Oval Office address was a wasted opportunity to leverage an event (the spill) that could be used to justify changing the status quo.
That said, the status quo has a powerful protector: Congress, specifically the Senate. We just saw the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression and all we’re getting is ever more watered down legislation. Sticking it to the banks is a political no-brainer in an election year, yet it isn’t happening.
Similarly, setting aside climate change, the politics of lessening our dependence on foreign oil and creating our own high-tech energy industry are also no-brainers. We don’t need to defend global warming to justify our need to get off the oil teat via energy reform legislation. Yet we get this strange passage in Obama’s speech:
[…] Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill –- a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.
Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And there are some who believe that we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy -– because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.
So I’m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party -– as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.[…]
There’s not even a call for the Senate to take up the legislation. The bitter political reality is that Obama doesn’t have enough confidence in the Senate’s ability to pass anything to even suggest that they try. That’s why he’s specific on the small things the Executive Branch can do (restitution and MMS reform), and mushy on the big changes needed to keep us from drilling at 20,000 feet or propping up despots on the other side of the earth.