First, stop the spill, then be ready before the next time 

Since the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, which tragically cost the lives of 11 workers on board, various entities have scrambled to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, which is threatening the regional ecosystem and economy.

Right now, our focus must be to do everything possible to stop the leak before it causes any more damage. Moving forward, however, I believe it is imperative that we investigate what caused the rig to explode and what can be done to prevent future disasters of this sort.

It has been two decades since a spill of this scale has occurred and as such, we are presented with a unique opportunity to assess the policies we put into place in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster.

One thing is certain: BP and the federal government were not prepared for the size and scope of this catastrophe. And the resulting loss of life and potentially irreversible damage to the environment caused by this accident cannot be understated.

So too, is the crippling effect that this disaster has on the local citizens. The many individuals who rely on the Gulf as a means of survival can do little but stand by and pray as the oil continues to flow, and the damage continues to mount.

And so, once the spill is contained, the damage is assessed, and a mitigation strategy is enacted, I look forward to a thorough examination of the response, on both the part of BP and the federal government.

An investigation will provide valuable insights about how we can safely develop our traditional sources of energy and continue to explore ever emerging new technologies to expand our national energy portfolio in a way that will best address energy needs of America and the rest of the world.

Understandably, there are those who point to this incident as proof that America needs to abandon its development of our offshore fossil fuel resources.  However, I believe the real lesson this incident will provide is a more clear understanding of what must be done to not only improve the regulatory structure that governs the authorization and operation of private enterprise bringing our domestic oil supplies online, but also to ensure that the response structure in place provides for the most efficient pollution containment should the unforeseen occur.

Energy policy is one of the most critical issues facing Congress, as Americans pay high prices at the pump day after day, and our dependence on foreign oil continues to threaten our national security.

Moreover, as our deficit continues to pile up, we find our currency weakening and our nation’s debt to countries like China growing by the day. However, America has the resources that will provide for our nation’s energy needs and the resources that would alleviate unstable prices.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster, while tragic, must be carefully placed in the context of our overall energy and environmental policies. It is crucial we look for solutions to lower energy costs for American families and increase domestic energy production to break our dependency on foreign sources of oil.

However, those solutions will rely on an honest discussion of our domestic priorities. And for that discussion to take place in a meaningful way, we must first understand why accidents like the Exxon Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon occur.

In doing so, we can move forward to accurately determine what we can and should do to prevent disaster and secure a future of energy independence.

Rep. Michele Bachmann is a Republican from Minnesota.

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