Jewish groups have always recognized the importance of breaking our nation’s crippling dependence on foreign oil, much of it from unstable and sometimes antagonistic countries in the Middle East. And many regard the protection of our increasingly fragile planet as a reflection of core Jewish values.
But as the disastrous BP oil spill demonstrates, reconciling those concerns and turning them into effective legislation and regulation is easier said than done. Advocates of offshore drilling make a valid point when they say that even with a crash program to develop alternative fuels, our dependence on oil will continue for years. They assert that meeting our short-term energy needs through drilling and exploration will remain critical to American productivity and prosperity.
But that fact has also been used as an excuse, in the interests of short-term profit, to do what is damaging to our long-term economic and security interests.
President Obama angered many liberals when he announced his plan to expand offshore exploration and drilling as part of his revised energy policy. But he, too, faces the dilemma of how to meet the needs of a future in which fossil fuels will be increasingly scarce and expensive while protecting jobs and the prosperity we regard as our birthright.
Drilling opponents point out the obvious — that the BP spill occurred despite supposedly advanced technologies that drilling advocates insist will protect our oceans and shorelines. But they offer few short-term solutions that don’t involve economically and probably politically unacceptable costs.
It’s easy to say the BP oil spill, which could eventually threaten East Coast beaches and natural habitats, should be a wake-up call; it’s difficult to find policies that will effectively unravel that tangle of economic, environmental, security and political concerns.
Our leaders will need the wherewithal to make politically courageous choices. And that means having the backing of an electorate that understands that there are no easy ways out of the mess we have created for ourselves.
The Jewish groups that have spoken so eloquently about energy independence and the environment over the years have been remarkably silent in the face of a Gulf of Mexico crisis that puts an uncomfortable spotlight on these realities. With so much at stake, they — indeed, all of us — must join the debate.
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