Gulf oil spill: the cost of being hooked on oil…

UPDATE: This post is outdated since the oil spill has continued and much damage has been done, but I think I still have some valid points here. For my latest posts just google Tony Walther’s Weblog.


Fortunately, I guess, the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, now some three weeks old, seems to be a fairly slow-moving disaster, even though it threatens or already is the worst man-made environmental catastrophe of all time.

At last check I saw no reports that the oil slick(s) had actually reached the mainland (of the U.S.), although the oil has reached various coastal islands.

An Audubon site I read only mentioned a few birds being treated for oil-caused injury, although being it is nesting time, the potential for harm to birds is great.

Fishing, commercial and otherwise, has been shut down in the Gulf, I understand. Commercial fishermen are being hired (bribed?) by BP to help clean up the spill. As I understand it, BP has tried to force them to sign agreements not to sue in return for clean-up jobs — don’t know the status of that but I understand there may have been a court decision nullifying that or at least there is some question as to the validity of such agreements — sure seems like blatant bribery or blackmail to me.

All that aside, it seems to me that we (the U.S.) are so hooked on oil that we are willing to take enormous environmental risks in both transporting oil and drilling in the ocean. The Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska which did irreparable environmental and economic damage did not deter us in our quest for oil at any price. And of course it always help if the folks who are directly affected are way up in Alaska. Even others in Alaska, such as Sarah Palin, couldn’t care less about environmental worries (I think her husband works, or used to work for BP).

This current and continuing spill or out-of-control underwater gusher may have much more far-reaching environmental and economic effects.

A couple of years ago when gasoline and diesel prices hit the roof folks were seriously talking about alternatives, everything from bicycling to work to running vehicles on discarded vegetable oil. Many shippers who were hooked on trucking were turning to or seriously thinking about exploring their options in rail transport (which is per mile much more energy efficient, although not practical for point to point shipments, or at least for pickup and final delivery except for customers along their tracks). Even though fuel is still costly, a drop in price from the all-time highs has quieted that fervor for alternatives somewhat.

I guess the point is that it takes extremes in price or accidents to get us to really seriously look to or go to alternatives.

Neither the private sector nor government seems able to come up with alternatives while we can still get by with the status quo.

But we all know in our hearts that sooner or later (and it may well be sooner) we will have to find alternatives for our energy. It would seem to me a good time for a moon shot program by our government, much like the space program (hence the term moon shot).

It would have to be handled differently. It would have to be carried out by various players in the private sector working off of incentives from the federal government. I realize that to some extent this is already being done in various so-called green energy projects. But it seems to me that we need a larger effort and a more central focus from the government based on real science and not special interests, such as the gas or coal lobby (not that those two forms of energy do not have their place).

And time will tell, but it seems to me this current disaster in the gulf should be dire enough to convince thinking people everywhere that ruining our planet is not worth preserving the status quo in energy. But of course I also hope it is not as bad as all that.


If nothing else, the current BP spill proves that our government must step up its environmental oversight (President Obama is supposedly working on that now). Records show that BP successfully lobbied against environmental controls and failed to use all available technology to prevent disaster. And now BP and its subcontractors are blaming each other for the spill  — no one is willing to take responsibility, but it should be obvious that since its BP’s project it is BP’s responsibility 100 percent, and it is the government’s responsibility 100 percent to demand the highest standards in environmental protections.

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