Long-term impact of BP’s ugly spill: less off-shore drilling, more renewable energy development?

The massive, still-ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is certain to cost BP dearly–billions of clean up costs and an even larger hit on the reputation of a company that prided itself on a progressive environmental vision. BP may have wanted to stand for “Beyond Petroleum” but now it stands for “Big Problem.” Or perhaps as Robert Reich suggests: “Bad Petroleum.”

But the bigger issue is the long-term effect on energy policy, and off-shore drilling in particular, that may result from this environmental disaster. Will the BP Gulf spill do to off-shore drilling what Three Mile Island did to nuclear power in the U.S.? Those who had hoped for expansions in off-shore drilling as part of an effort to curb U.S. dependence on foreign oil are for the moment muting their chant of “Drill, baby drill.”

And will the spill give renewed impetus to a whole range of renewable energy sources–wind, solar, geo-thermal, run-of-river hydro power, etc.?

- Jon Harmon

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