oil sheenToday is a good day for an energy policy reality check. Because today we are in a place where the environmentally responsible choice is lighting a giant oil slick on fire.

And that really is the best option available to us right now. That’s how bad the situation in the Gulf of Mexico is. It is yet another horrifying example of the broken—and I would say morally bankrupt — energy system that Americans remain shackled to thanks to republicans and democrats alike.

As a reminder, here’s what President Obama had to say one month ago when he announced expanded offshore oil drilling:

…we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists, between those who would claim drilling is a cure all and those who would claim it has no place.

Can someone please remind me why exactly do we need to move beyond the “tired” debates?

I’m not tired of those debates at all. In fact, I think we’re just getting started!

Eight days ago the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded. Eleven people are missing, presumed dead. The rig is hemorrhaging 42,000 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf. The resulting slick is 40 miles wide and 80 miles long. And it’s moving toward a wildlife refuge, people’s homes, and a lucrative shellfishery. All of which means that the best option we have—the best option for the environment, I mean — is lighting an oil slick on fire.

Super. Just as long as we move beyond the tired debates.

UPDATE 5/5/10—I’m informed that burning an oil spill may not be the most environmentally responsible choice. One Northwest company, Xextex, based in Issaquah, Washington, deploys an oil-sequestering textile that is, apparently, far more environmentally benign. I can’t personally vouch for it (endorsements from others are here), since I’ve never seen it in action and don’t really understand the industry anyway, but it does seem like exactly the sort of thing we should be considering right now.


[Image is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.]