Commentary: The politics of Big Oil

Here are a couple of statistics whose connection may not be immediately apparent:

The second fact may help to explain why the U.S. Senate recently watered down an energy bill sponsored by Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman that would have begun to address address the first: global warming.

Worse still, on Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he is now postponing a vote on the bill, which would also have addressed the lax oversight and sloppy safety standards revealed by the disastrous BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Senate Republicans and a handful of coastal state Democrats oppose the bill in its present form.

The House, in contrast, last Friday passed a tough Democratic-authored bill that would, among other things, require offshore drillers to adhere to U.S. safety standards and make them 100 percent liable for oil spill cleanups and damages. It passed with no Republican support and was opposed by two dozen Democrats.

So even as BP finally appears to have permanently stopped the oil and gas gushing from its busted well in the Gulf, Washington can't find consensus on how to protect U.S. coastal areas from a similar catastrophe.

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