You don’t see too many oil wells in Illinois. They’re clustered in the southern part of the state, and they produce only 0.3 percent of the nation’s crude oil. This ain’t Texas.
You do see a lot of corn fields, and feel strong winds blowing across the prairie.
That’s why it’s easier for a Senate candidate from Illinois to blast the oil industry than a president from the Prairie State.
A few hours before Obama went on the air with his speech on the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Alexi Giannoulias released a white paper titled “Energy & Climate Change: Getting America Running on Clean Energy.” The paper was intended to ride the coattails of Obama’s condemnation of Big Oil, but it was much more strident, and much more specific.
Giannoulias is hoping the BP issue gives him an edge over Mark Kirk, who in 2008 endorsed drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
To ensure BP pays for all the damage it caused to the Gulf Coast, Giannoulias wants to raise the Oil Spill Prevention Act’s liability limit from $75 million to $10 billion. He also wants BP to place its $5 billion first quarter profit in an escrow fund, which will be used to clean up the Gulf and compensate fishermen.
“For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels,” Obama said last night. “And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.”
Giannoulias proposed a full-on assault on the oil industry and its government perks: he wants to reduce oil use by 7 million barrels a day, eliminate tax deductions he says are costing the federal government $4.5 billion a year, raise auto mileage standards and slap a 4 percent fee on foreign oil.
“Over the last year- and-a-half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jump-start the clean-energy industry,” Obama said. “As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.”
Giannoulias went into a few more details on this topic, describing how Illinois, with its wealth of wind and biomass, can help lead the nation away from oil dependence, although interestingly, he never mentioned ethanol, Sen. Dick Durbin’s favorite fuel.
But clearly, fueling America on anything other than oil will be good for Illinois's economy. Not to mention, Giannoulias doesn't have to manage BP's current mess. That's why the company's such a useful enemy.