Sunday, May 02, 2010

WHOSE OIL SPILL IS IT?

It's ours! All of us; we want it, we demand it, we pay the consequences for it.

It's easy, way too easy, to point fingers at the evil oil companies like British Petroleum, and chastise them for polluting the Gulf of Mexico with their ultra-profit-making oil. But perhaps we need to take a time out from blaming and take a close look in the mirror of humankind. Look around, and everything you see has a relationship to oil. If the oil spigot were shut off right this moment, would you be OK without it? How loudly would you complain if your life style were suddenly that of the rural poor in the Third World?

Here's an animation of the Gulf oil spill (up until May 2). Scary!

And here's a map of oil platforms in Gulf of Mexico.

Almost 4,000 active wells/rigs. And guess what, there are lots of oil spills every year in the Gulf of Mexico, from U.S. as well as Mexican wells.

And lest we think the Gulf of Mexico was a pristine place before this recent/on-going spill, the New York Times reminds us otherwise. In a short, illustrated article, we are reminded that the impact of humans has already taken a huge toll on the environment in the Gulf: hypoxic, or dead zones on the Gulf floor caused by algae blooms resulting from agricultural runoff conveyed by the Mississippi River; human population increase of 45% between 1980 and 2003 that has replaced habitat with development; 2,000 to >6,000 barrels of oil spilled annually into the Gulf by oil production (that's >2,000,000 gallons between 1996 and 2009); erosion of wetlands at a rate of about one football field every 38 minutes resulting from channelization of the Mississippi River and it's wetland replenishing sediment; and many, many tons of trash (lots of plastic) dumped into the Gulf, even though it is illegal.

I'm not saying it's therefore OK to let the oil keep spilling, or to drill baby drill. I am saying that we (and particularly the greenies among us) should not just be critical of BP, we should also demand a real energy policy in this country - and the rest of the world - that is logical and rational. As long as we are a petroleum culture, we will continue to get what we ask for - oil, lots and lots of oil - everywhere.

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