After BP oil spill, there’s no need to rush to stop drilling everywhere

“The answer is not drilling everywhere all the time. But the answer is not, also, for us to ignore the fact that we are going to need vital energy sources to maintain our economic growth and our security.”

Sarah Palin, right? Rush Limbaugh, maybe?

Try again. How about Barack Obama?

Those were the president’s words three months ago as he opened up new areas for off-shore oil drilling. After the BP oil catastrophe, of course, Obama changed course and imposed a six-month moratorium on all deep-water drilling.

The entirely inconsistent approach to this issue was reason enough for a federal judge this week to rebuke the president. Deep-water drilling will continue, at least until the Obama administration can convince another court that this ban did not come about “arbitrarily.”

We’ll see what the courts decide, but the lesson this week should be to go slowly. Two months into this environmental catastrophe, the public and policymakers still do not know the complete story behind the BP oil spill.

In fact, as The New York Times reported last weekend, federal regulators did not act on advice on how to ensure that a device that could close leaking oil pipes would work.

Is deep-water oil drilling always reckless, or can it be done safely — as long as companies like BP and regulators are doing their job? No one can say today.

In the meantime, the president has not made the case for putting the brakes on the entire oil drilling industry. If he reads his own words from March, he might understand why.