The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is responding to the Gulf Coast oil spill with a campaign urging President Obama to end all offshore drilling. "President Obama: No More Offshore Drilling" is the call, backed by an email I was forwarded by a reader that claims, "As the ongoing spill off the Gulf Coast shows yet again, there is no such thing as clean and safe offshore oil drilling. Yet the Obama Administration has announced plans to open hundreds of miles of coastline to this dangerous and destructive practice. At a time when we need energy policies that protect our health, our environment, and our long-term energy security, we must call for an end to -- not an expansion of -- offshore drilling."
As troubling as the Gulf spill is, this is an overreaction, like responding to news of an auto accident with a call for a end to cars, or to a medical accident with a call for an end to surgery, or to a hard-drive crash with a call to an end to computers. If American companies stopped offshore drilling, the immediate consequence would be to enrich countries with large land-based reserves, such as Saudi Arabia, whose policies toward gays and women aren't exactly in line with Reform Judaism's ideals of tolerance. The increase in gas prices would be felt disproportionately in the pocketbooks of low income Americans and might even translate into higher food and heat prices that would also hurt the poor whose fate the Reform Jews claim to be concerned with.
Everyone's entitled to their own religion and their own views of offshore drilling, but I've never quite understood how Reform Judaism manages to cast off traditional obligations of Judaism -- things like eating kosher food or marrying within the faith -- while imposing even more onerous new obligations, like opposing all offshore drilling.