"Drill, baby, drill" isn't working out so well for America.
As I write this on Friday in Washington, BP workers are lowering a 100-ton box into 5,000 feet of water, desperately attempting to cap a catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Leak" isn't really a good word for what's happening, though. More like a deluge: over 200,000 gallons a day have been poisoning the Gulf since April 20, killing wildlife, threatening the economy, and jeopardizing the livelihoods of countless fishermen and tourism industry workers. The "cures" - chemical dispersant and controlled burning - are arguably as harmful as the malady. This, of course, is on top of the 11 workers who tragically lost their lives when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, unleashing one of our country's worst oil spills since Exxon Valdez in 1989.
BP has made it clear that the cap attempt, untested in deep water, is not a cure-all - and could be a failure.
Talk about managing expectations!
Untested? Failure? This is not how Americans should have to think about their economic and energy security. Watching this saga unfold - while its costs add up, ever higher - it seems unbelievable to me that any elected leader would fight attempts to fast-track sourcing of clean, renewable energy on a large, ambitious scale.
It's not that Americans don't want clean energy. In fact, over 80 percent of Americans say they would buy it, and there are currently a dozen offshore wind projects in various stages of development across the U.S. One such project, Cape Wind, was approved last Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar - a huge victory for supporters of renewable energy adoption.
Cape Wind is groundbreaking. It will be the first offshore wind farm in North America, launching the United States into the renewable big leagues (much of Europe has embraced on- and offshore wind, and China is nearing completion of its first offshore project). Cape Wind will comprise 130 turbines that will generate enough clean energy to power 150,000 homes in Massachusetts. What an incredible visual representation of America's clean energy future!
Unfortunately, not everyone thinks so. Wealthy property owners spent $2 million on lobbyists to fight the wind farm's approval, arguing it would harm wildlife and destroy the pristine views from their vacation homes near Nantucket Sound. Nearly a decade passed as the complaints piled up, wasting valuable time.
When we most needed strong, progressive leadership, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy - and his nephew, noted eco-activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - disappointingly joined the anti-Cape Wind chorus. Why? The Kennedy family's compound overlooks the historic sound, and they felt the turbines would be an eyesore.
I don't know about you, but I think a spreading slick of oil -- so big it's visible from space - is the real eyesore. As for wildlife, the BP disaster is doing documented, irreversible harm. It took nine years for Cape Wind's approval, during which time the number of new offshore drilling permits tripled. And if you think gasoline is expensive now, consider that no matter how much oil we pull up from American land and water, we will never be able to replenish that oil once it's gone. How much longer can America afford this reluctance to embrace renewable energy on a mass scale?
Quoted in the Washington Post shortly after Cape Wind's approval, the project's CEO, Jim Gordon, was quick to bring up the BP oil fiasco:
"It gives the nation pause to reflect on, really, what are our energy choices, and how are we going to live with them? ... Every energy project has some impact. This was never about a choice between Cape Wind or nothing."
As Americans, we're lucky to have the choices that come with prosperity. It shouldn't take an epic man-made disaster like the BP oil spill to help us make the right ones.
Brian F. Keane is President of SmartPower, the nation's leading non-profit marketing firm dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. To learn more, visit www.smartpower.org.
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