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The threat of a major oil spill off the coast of Louisiana grew significantly Saturday as a leak was discovered in the oil well that was the site last week of a catastrophic accident that sank a huge drilling rig and likely killed 11 workers.

The spill, which a day earlier Coast Guard officials had thought was contained within a 16-square-mile area on the surface, now covers 400 square miles, and may grow as the well spews 42,000 more gallons of oil per day at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said Saturday.

And the White House response?

"I would hope it would serve as another wake-up call on this issue that there is no such thing as safe oil drilling," said Sara Wan, a member of the California Coastal Commission, a state regulatory agency. "Once that oil starts leaking in the ocean, that damage is irreversible. You just look at what happened with Exxon-Valdez — they're still feeling the effects of it. There's no real way to clean it up."

Obama showed no sign of budging Friday. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president still believes increasing domestic oil production can be done safely, securely and without harming the environment.

"I don't honestly think it opens up a whole new series of questions, because, you know, in all honesty I doubt this is the first accident that has happened and I doubt it will be the last," Gibbs said.

In all honesty, we're all going to die, so why fund biomedical research? In all honesty, the Sun will go red giant in 5 billion years, so why even try to address environmental issues?

The worst part about the president's off-shore oil drilling policy isn't the potential oil spills. And it's not something that can be excused as some grand strategic political gambit. It's the message: that continuing to search for and drill for more oil should be part of our long-term energy strategy. It would be nice if we could act as if climate change is a crisis. Because it is.

In a time of crisis, you don't continue to promote that which is causing the crisis. You teach people how it is causing the crisis and why we have to stop it. You change the very nature of the conversation. You use the science. You use every political skill and opportunity you have. You teach people that we have to change the nature of our behavior. You teach people that we have to change the nature of our economy. You teach people that we don't have time to waste.

This is a time for transformational change. As if we are in a crisis. Because we are. It would be nice if we had someone to carry that message. A leader, or something. In all honesty.

Update [2010-4-25 15:36:22 by Turkana]: As RLMiller keeps pointing out, we can comment on the new off-shore oil drilling policy at the MMS website.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Sun Apr 25, 2010 at 12:15 PM PDT.

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