Skip to main content
7373070046f86fa80b450003_px2337c.jpg

Can Good Emerge From the BP Oil Spill?

Perhaps it is a pipe dream, but it is just possible that the ongoing BP oil-spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico will finally catalyze support for a US environmental policy with teeth. If so, the starting point should be a renewed push for a carbon tax.

CAMBRIDGE – Perhaps it is a pipe dream, but it is just possible that the ongoing BP oil-spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico will finally catalyze support for an American environmental policy with teeth. Yes, the culprits should be punished, both to maintain citizens’ belief that justice prevails, and to make other oil producers think twice about taking outsized risks. But if that is all that comes out of the BP calamity, it will be a tragic lost opportunity to restore some sanity to the United States’ national environmental and energy policy, which has increasingly gone off track in recent years.

Why should there be any reason for hope, especially given that US environmental policy has been predicated on the unrealistic belief that relatively small subsidies to new energy technologies can substitute for tax-induced price incentives for producers and consumers?

The fact is, the BP oil spill is on the cusp of becoming a political game-changer of historic proportions. If summer hurricanes push huge quantities of oil onto Florida’s beaches and up the Eastern seaboard, the resulting political explosion will make the reaction to the financial crisis seem muted.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/GxjXbIg;
  1. op_anheier8_MichaelOrsoGettyImages_Atlasstatueinnewyork Michael Orso/Getty Images

    Philanthropy vs. Democracy

    Helmut K. Anheier

    For philanthropic institutions, the fundamental question of accountability first raised by the emergence of liberal democracy will not go away. To what extent should modern societies permit independent private agendas in the public realm and allow their advocates to pursue objectives that are not shared by governments and popular majorities?

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.