06/11/2010 01:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

BP Has An Ace Up Its Sleeve. Watch Out!

Scream as loud as you like. In this political poker game, BP's holding a winning hand.

The longer we go without stopping the oil leak and the closer we get to realizing the true scope of the damage, the angrier the American people will get. When that righteous anger finally boils over, that's when BP will play their hole card. It's not really BP's alone. The sleeve, the whole shirt actually, belongs to the entire oil industry. The hidden ace is sometimes called the "Selfish American Card." What it means is this -- Americans are not willingly pay the price for this disaster. We're too selfish. We won't pay. And what won't we pay for? All the costs that come after we make BP pay.

The cost to stop the leak. To clean up the mess. To repair the lives of millions of our fellow citizens. And it's not just the costs that flow from this spill. It's all the spills yet to come -- and they will. No one knows this better than the oil industry. Once you get away from the shoreline, far from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida (we won't even talk about Texas or Alaska), Americans will not care. You can put all the oil-soaked, dying birds you want on TV; show us the oily beaches and ravaged wetlands; make us stare into the faces of the men, women and children whose lives have been shattered.

Believe me. Nobody will agree to pay more at the pump to make these places and these people whole again.

Nobody really wants to stop offshore drilling. We can't. We're addicts. You doubt this? Check the facts. Then tell me you still have doubts. Sorry, but the people who live where offshore drilling exists are on their own, now and in the future.

Everyday, around the globe, about 85 million barrels of oil pour into the human community. The United States, with less than 5% of the world's population, uses 24.3% of that oil. Nearly a quarter of the world's gasoline burned everyday by 1/20th of the people who live on this planet. We produce about 5.8% ourselves, and about a third of it from offshore drilling. How many gallons of gas from offshore drilling are we talking about? I hope you're sitting down. The Minerals Management Service reports 527 million barrels a year from offshore wells. That's 23.5 billion gallons of gas!

View this from a wider perspective. China, with 19.6 of all human beings, consumes only 8.9% of the world's gasoline. The European Union, with slightly more people than the United States, uses 16.9%. India, home to 17.3% of all people on Earth, uses a tiny 3.1% of the gasoline. So, the US and Europe, with 1/10th the world's population uses an astounding 41.2% of the world oil supply, while China and India, with 36.9% of the human population uses only 12%.

Americans should ask, for safety sake if no other reason -- how long can we get away with that? And how could we possibly survive without our own offshore drilling?

When the pressure builds to the bursting point, we will turn our backs on our brothers along the Gulf Coast. Here's why. The best selling motor vehicle in the US is the Ford F-Series truck. There are more than 33 million of them. The #3 best seller is Chevy's Silverado, and #8 is the Dodge Ram. The Ford has a fuel tank that holds 40 gallons. Silverado's tank tops out at 26 gallons, and the Dodge Ram -- again, I hope your sitting -- it has a maximum capacity of 52 gallons.

If we scare the oil companies -- and hanging BP out to dry over this Gulf spill will do just that -- they will grab us by our wallets and squeeze so hard we'll give them anything. They will make Cheney's waterboarding look like a picnic. How about gasoline prices here at costs already common in Europe? Are you up for it? Fill your tank in The Netherlands and you'll shell out $7 bucks a gallon. A Ford F-Series would cost $280 to fill up. The Silverado $182. And the Dodge Ram (ouch!) $364 bucks. You think Big Oil will stop there? How long would Obama be able to withstand $12 a gallon gas? The Ford would cost $480 for a fill up. The Silverado jumps to $312, and your Dodge Ram (if you can afford one), $624 just to fill it up! Now do you understand the "Selfish American Card" tucked up BP's sleeve?

There are about 310 million of us here in the United States. How many will willingly part with $150-$200 each time they get gas? Who among us will pay double that? It's no longer, "when the rubber meets the road." Now it's when the gas pump reads a number that turns the contents of your colon liquid. Sure, we all love New Orleans, but... Hey, wait a minute!

BP has an ace up its sleeve all right. The more we holler for them to "get the job done" -- the more we insist they pay, the closer they get to playing it. The "Selfish American Card." How easy will it be to frighten us, to raise the specter of $7 gas, $12 gas, even $15 gas? A lot easier than you think. If you live along the Gulf Coast, I feel sorry for you. If you live in The Rest Of America, don't fool yourself, or feel guilty about being so selfish. You're not alone.