Conservative Confusion Over Oil Spills And Hurricanes

For a while, Republicans were defending their call for coastal drilling by claiming that the Chinese were drilling in Cuban waters. This proved to be false (though many on the right repeat the claim anyway).

So, conservatives have moved onto a new talking point: coastal drilling is safe for the environment, because recent hurricanes didn’t lead to oil spills. It leads to rhetoric like this from Nancy Pfotenhauer, John McCain’s senior energy adviser, who appeared on MSNBC the other day.

John McCain made the same claim a month ago: “As for offshore drilling, it’s safe enough these days that not even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage from the battered rigs off the coasts of New Orleans and Houston.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) said the same thing over the weekend: “I think people are reassured that not a drop of oil was spilled during Katrina or Rita. Those rigs in the Gulf, there was not a single incident of spillage that anyone reported.”

Bill O’Reilly is sticking to the Republican script, telling his radio audience the other day, “Remember when Katrina hit, none of the oil rigs spilled in Louisiana.”

Even Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who presumably would know better, told Fox News a couple of weeks ago, “[T]hat’s one of the great unwritten success stories, after Katrina and Rita, these awful storms, no major spills.”

George Will, Dick Morris, Robert Samuelson, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page have all repeated the claim.

And they’re all wrong.


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