In an Oval Office interview last Friday with Politico columnist Roger Simon, President Obama likened the Gulf oil disaster’s impact on the national psyche to that of 9/11:
In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11, I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come.
Unfortunately, judging from the portions of the interview published by Politico over the weekend, we shouldn’t expect this reshaping to include a carbon fee or similar tax on dirty energy.
Obama did stress the environmental costs:
I have no idea what new energy sources are going to be available, what technologies might drive down the price of renewable energies. What we can predict is that the availability of fossil fuel is going to be diminishing; that it’s going to get more expensive to recover; that there are going to be environmental costs that our children, … our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren are going to have to bear.
Yet there was nothing in the Politico interview to match the seeming commitment to legislating a carbon emissions price that the President made in his June 2 energy speech in Pittsburgh, as reported in the New York Times:
If we refuse to take into account the full cost of our fossil fuel addiction — if we don’t factor in the environmental costs and national security costs and true economic costs — we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future. The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months.
Needless to say, it’s a long shot that renewable technologies will ever be able to undercut fossil fuels in price unless at least some of those environmental and security costs are factored into coal and oil prices, as the Christian Science Monitor noted in an editorial published the same day that Politico interviewed the President.