Elizabeth Kolbert frets:

Will the Gulf spill, like the Santa Barbara spill [of 1968 that spurred the creation of the EPA], prove to be the kind of disaster that jolts the nation into action? So far, the signs are not encouraging. Members of the Drill, Baby, Drill Party have blocked efforts to raise the liability limits for oil spills, and have yet to muster a single sponsor for climate legislation. At the same Spill-death-in-gulf_John Moore Gettytime, they have sought to portray the spill as President Obama’s Katrina. 

The President does, in fact, share in the blame. Obama inherited an Interior Department that he knew to be plagued by corruption, but he allowed the department’s particularly disreputable Minerals Management Service to party on. Last spring, in keeping with its usual custom, the M.M.S. granted BP all sorts of exemptions from environmental regulations. Ironically, one of these exemptions allowed the company to drill the Deepwater Horizon well without adhering to the standards set by NEPA. For reasons that are hard to explain, the Administration still can’t, or won’t, say exactly how much oil is leaking.

Jonathan Hiskes adds:

I know the president is supposedly worried about “owning” the oil leak-better if it remains BP’s problem. I know Congress is expected to spend the summer finishing finance reform (let’s hope), arguing about Elena Kagan, and gearing up for the fall midterm elections. I know the American people are supposedly too fickle and distractible to focus for long on anything this difficult. But I don’t buy it. The energy crisis should trump all of this.

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