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Did Gibbs open door to reinstating drilling ban?

President Obama has an opportunity on his hands: He could, if he so chose, seize on the Gulf oil spill to reverse his announcement of new offshore drilling and reinstate the ban on it. No idea if he'll take this opportunity, but it's there.

The left is redoubling its push for him to resinstate the ban, arguing that strong leaders aren't afraid to change their minds when empirical evidence suggests they should do so. And Obama has repeatedly said he will base his administration's decisions on "science" and "facts."

This strong new MoveOn ad, for instance, argues that "sometimes great leaders are tested." The ad calls for the ban to be revived, and asks: "President Obama: Will you lead our country into a clean energy future?"

At the press briefing just now, Robert Gibbs was pressed on whether this is a possibilty, and interestingly, he didn't rule it out. Asked if the administration's thinking had shifted, Gibbs noted that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was probing the spill, adding:

"This is an administation that is going to take whatever we get from that and have that dicate our decision-making going forward. It would be premature to get to far ahead of where Secretary Salazar's investigation is...

"The investigation is to determine what happened and to use that information going forward to dictate any changes in our policy."

That seems to leave the door open to a possible policy change. Now, we don't know what the investigation will find, and it's very possible that the administration will ultimately argue that this one disaster is an exception and doesn't undercut the case for more drilling.

But either way, Obama has an opening here to change direction. And if he were to reinstate the drilling ban, he would be in a better position to argue that the spill proves in vivid, horrifying detail that the cost of remaining addicted to oil, and the price of inaction on energy reform, are too great to risk any longer.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 3, 2010; 2:59 PM ET
Categories:  Climate change  
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