President Obama on June 3 reportedly expressed “upper-level outrage” at the situation in the Gulf of Mexico, where a runaway British Petroleum oil well has spilled millions of gallons of oil. The rest of the nation’s outrage is perhaps only beginning, since the impact of the spill has just started to be felt onshore, where the oil will foul beaches, destroy tourism, devastate the seafood industry, disrupt communities and undermine delicate habitats.
The spill will eventually be stopped. The crucial question is whether the outrage and disgust—on the part of the president and the public—will be channeled into a meaningful political response. The disaster at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig will be further compounded if it doesn’t spark a move toward an alternative energy policy and away from dependence on oil.