The horrific and historic environmental disaster unfolding before our eyes in the Gulf of Mexico has everyone taking a new look at the true cost of oil addiction.
Everything was going so well for Big Oil. The American Petroleum Institute, its members, and their army of lobbyists were having their way with Congress and the White House, demanding access to off-limits coastal waters and other giveaways in return for dropping opposition campaigns to block global warming and energy legislation. Easy pickings.
They had duped everyone into thinking that oil drilling is harmless and safe and that drilling for more oil domestically would solve our oil problems and cure our economic woes. All cold blooded lies.
This was a very modern rig: presumably, with the best available technology, the best safety precautions... yet something went catastrophically wrong and the costs of those lies are being borne by creatures and people of the Gulf coast. The truth will emerge in due time, but apparently British Petroleum was too cheap to pay for a $500,000 safety valve and safety precautions may have not been a top priority.
Drilling for oil along our coasts will never ever solve our domestic oil demand. The oil companies know this. Lee Raymond, former CEO of Exxon and the Darth Vader of global warming wars, always spoke the truth on this, saying in 2004, "I think that the notion in the United States of energy independence, which was first proposed in the Nixon administration, was a poor concept 30 years ago and it is a poor concept today." (Quoted in Financial Times, "Exxon chief hits at energy debate", September 17, 2004.)
This spill is already one of the worst of all time: the Coast Guard's upgraded estimate (April 29) is that 5,000 barrels of crude oil will blast out of the ocean floor every day, a mile deep. That's 210,000 gallons a day, or 8,750 gallons an hour, 146 gallons a minute... Staggering.
The oil hasn't even hit the beaches and wildlife refuges, the vast wetland habitat of the Gulf Coast. Right now we are concerned about the populations of sperm whales, dolphins, sea turtles, whale sharks and other creatures that inhabit these fragile waters.
What is happening to the spawning grounds of the endangered bluefin tuna, the sea turtle nesting grounds, the massive flocks of waterfowl and shore birds that inhabit the coastal zone? We probably won't be able to assess the full damage for decades to come.
Everyone's thoughts are on stopping the leak as soon as possible and preventing even more ecological harm. Our thoughts are also with the poor men who lost their lives, and their families. We are reminded of the Massey coal mine disaster this month and the true costs of dependence on dirty energy like coal and oil.
What will it take for President Obama to retract his "Drill baby drill!"-like approval of expanded offshore drilling? Maybe this disaster will serve as a wake up call for the nation, to get us on the path away from oil addiction and make us once again skeptical of the words and lies of Big Oil?
Greenpeace produced a series of maps showing what this oil spill would be doing if it were 50 miles off the coast of Virginia, say in 2025. As of Thursday, April 29, the oil spill would already be threatening the beaches of Cape May, NJ, Ocean City, MD, Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, and would have entered the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and Assateague National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
This is a long way from over.