A measured response

More than 200,000 gallons of crude oil a day are spewing from the blown-out well at the site of the Deepwater Horizon, 50 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana, which exploded April 20 and sank two days later.

Crews are using at least six remotely operated vehicles to try to cap the well — which sits in 4,000 feet of water — by shutting off an underwater valve.

President Barack Obama on Friday directed no new offshore oil drilling leases be issued unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent a repeat of such a massive spill as the one now threatening the Gulf Coast.

“I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security,” Mr. Obama said. “But I’ve always said that it must be done responsibly for the safety of our workers and our environment.”

Philip Radford, executive director of Greenpeace, predictably complained the president “does not go nearly far enough. The only way to prevent human, economic and environmental tragedies like the BP deepwater disaster is to re-enact the moratorium on offshore drilling and to replace dirty, dangerous fuels with clean energy. … President Obama should shelve plans to allow Shell to drill in the Arctic this summer. … One of the president’s first steps … should be to require that all new cars … run at 100 miles per gallon by 2015.”

In fact, President Obama’s response has been measured and sensible. Should we have given up flying the first time a test pilot died? Should we shut down all the world’s mines and fishing boats because men occasionally die in those dangerous professions?

Someday, technology will provide us with cleaner, less expensive energy. Those changes will come thanks to entrepreneurs seeking honest profit in a system called “the market.”

It would be nice if politicians, instead, could wave magic wands and declare “There shall be hundred-mile-per-gallon cars; windmills, solar panels and elves in hollow trees shall provide all our energy needs, pollution-free, for pennies.”

There is a place where such things happen, and where handsome princes on white chargers sweep us off our feet and all of our dreams come true.

Fortunately, at least in this case, President Obama seems to understand we do not live in a fairy tale.

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