The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us — at the rate of more than a million gallons of spewing oil a day — why this country desperately needs a change of energy policy.
Yet Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and others in his party have repeatedly castigated President Barack Obama for "using" the crisis to try to dislodge energy legislation stalled in the Senate.
This country needs to reduce its dependence on oil, even without the threat of climate change.
We control about 2 percent of proven reserves while consuming nearly 20 percent of the oil produced worldwide. Almost 60 percent of the oil we consume is imported, often from places that are hostile to U.S. interests and values.
Our country cannot drill its way to energy independence, even with breakthroughs in technology and the discovery of deeper oil reserves such as the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.
And there is the threat of climate change.
Some may prefer to disbelieve, despite the scientific consensus and new independent studies backing the scientists and debunking "Climategate," the accusations that climate researchers had committed fraud.
By delaying action on climate change, we risk an environmental catastrophe that will have global repercussions far worse than what's now devastating the gulf.
The best market-based way to reduce "climate pollution," the heat-trapping gases produced by burning fossil fuels, is to impose a price on carbon. Legislation passed a year ago by the House, but stuck in the Senate, does that.
Support for putting a price on carbon is also coming from some leaders of industry, such as Douglas May, Dow Chemical's vice president for energy and climate change. Dow foresees a wave of innovation, such as electricity-producing solar roof shingles, and new economic activity once Congress enacts an economic incentive to reduce carbon output.
"There are so many clean energy solutions that have a positive return," May was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "To decouple GDP from carbon requires innovation. If you don't put a value on carbon, how are you going to get that innovation?"
McConnell has repeatedly said that Obama should forget his "left-wing wish list" and focus on stopping the leak in the gulf — as if the leak wouldn't already be stopped if anyone knew how.
That raises a question about our senior senator: Is McConnell's view really so short and his vision so narrow that the only lesson he draws from the disaster in the gulf is "stop the leak?"