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Gulf oil spill and the political spillover in the Senate energy debate

The Gulf oil spill was supposed to help push through a climate-change bill. Instead, Obama must now fight harder for an energy bill that at least helps make carbon use more expensive.

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At first, the Gulf oil spill was seen as a wake-up call for the United States to finally pass a climate-change law. The images of black goo washing up on beaches would be enough to persuade Americans to kick their fossil-fuel habit.

Bu nearly two months after the BP spill began spewing petroleum, it hasn’t turned out that way.

Key senators from states that rely heavily on jobs related to both offshore oil and coal continue to block bills that would push the US – the largest source of greenhouse gases per capita – toward doing its part to reverse global warming.

Their election-year desire to maintain high-carbon industries during a period of high unemployment is trumping a longer-term need to create a low-carbon economy.

This political shortsightedness by a few regions of the United States transcends the usual partisan politics of Washington. In fact, President Obama is now trying to find a compromise with a dozen or so Democratic senators from coal and oil states that could result in passage of almost any energy bill this summer.

Such a measure would add to Mr. Obama’s health-care law and the likely passage of financial reform. It would also give him a victory after criticism of his handling of the Gulf oil spill. Most of all, the White House wants some sort of reform in US energy before a possible conservative swing in Congress after this fall’s elections.

What sort of compromises should Obama accept in an energy bill? His choices have only gotten worse.

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