to protect the area from accidental oil spills which might occur from offshore drilling.
Residents in Alaska were promised the latest safety techniques were in place to make sure
accidents while transporting Alaskan crude could not occur. Residents in Pennsylvania heard
experts proclaim the safety records of nuclear plants and certainty an accident was not
possible. Old news all. Now, the reality of failure falls to the people living along the Gulf
Coast from Louisiana to Florida. They were told drilling rigs fifty miles offshore could never
spill so much oil or that it would never reach the shore. Once again, Americans are reeling
from the good intentions of well-intended lies.
Like comedy, timing is everything in politics. President Obama announced his support
for opening sections of the East Coast, the Gulf, and Alaska for offshore oil drilling. He was
trying to attract Republicans to support his energy legislation. California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger came out in favor of opening up offshore drilling to close a $20 billion state
budget deficit. He's now reversed himself, opposing all new offshore drilling because of the
potential environmental and economic damage a spill could cause. Environmental groups
who reluctantly supported the President are heading for the hills. Progressive Senators may
oppose the energy bill if the President doesn't change his position on the issue. While damage
to the Gulf is serious and growing, imagine this catastrophe occurring in the Alaskan National
Wildlife Refuge. The environmental damage would be incalculable.
Spilling milk is an accident. A fender-bender is an accident. Millions of barrels of oil
flowing into the ocean from a ship or an oil rig is a disaster. This should not have happened.
There is no excuse.
Could the Exxon Valdez disaster have been avoided? Yes! If the ship had had a double
hull, the spill would have been significantly less or possibly even totally contained. However,
the Exxon Valdez was an older tanker; and Exxon would have had to spend a lot of money to
retrofit its fleet and that would have reduced profit.
The Wallstreet Journal reported back in 2004 that the fail-safe mechanism that BP
(British Petroleum) was using on their deep-sea wells had experts raising questions whether
it could work at depths of 5,000 feet. These concerns were never addressed. The EPA
(Environmental Protection Agency) did not do their job. Drilling should not have begun
until oil companies could prove their device worked. Too late, we now know the device failed
and it could be another week or more before the flow of oil is stemmed.
If the EPA had attempted to stop drilling until tests were run, BP would have screamed
bloody murder. The Bush Administration would have fired the head of the EPA and the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce would have attacked bird-huggers as environmental whackos bent on
destroying the economy of this nation. We now face an environmental Chernobyl with no idea
how bad it will be, how much oil will spill, the effect on the coast, or how much it will cost to
correct. And we can expect this cycle of irresponsibility to continue as long as those in charge
are willing to sacrifice environmental safety for short-term profit.
When talking about oil drilling or nuclear plants, the word "accident" should be removed
from the language. "Accident" implies something unforeseen and mostly manageable.
"Accidents" require a band aid, some Bondo, or maybe a cast. The word "accident" lulls
the listener into a false sense of security. The Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island,
and this spill in the Gulf are disasters. They are catastrophes. They are nightmares. The
nuclear energy industry likes to talk about how many years they have been "accident" free.
The oil industry takes great pride in having no major "accidents" in years. Supporters of
drilling in ANWAR always site the lack of "accidents" as proof the drilling can be done safely.
It's time for the language to change.
As things now stand, "accidents" are simply factored into the cost of doing business.
Preventable catastrophes are not business expenses! "Accidents" are not to be understood
in terms of risk in the profit-loss game. At some point, too much risk will be considered
acceptable; and when that happens the "loss" will be insurmountable! After the fact, we will
be told of some "unfortunate miscalculation" which no creative accounting adjustments will
be able to placate.
We have no idea how much of an ecological and environmental disaster this latest event
in the Gulf will be. We won't know for months or years. The pressure to open up more areas
of the U.S. coast to drilling won't go away. It's a simple answer to a complex problem.
Pressure to license new nuclear plants in this country is perennial. Once again, a simple
answer to a complex problem and we'll be told that the technologies are safe. We will continue
to be told every effort is being made to prevent "accidents". We will continue to be told there
is no other way, that these are the only solutions to our energy needs. Projects will be pushed
for the jobs they create and how they will reduce our dependency on foreign oil. It will be
"un-American" to oppose them. Groups who organize against these policies will be called
"obstructionists, luddites, tree-huggers, whackos, and unpatriotic". They will be attacked as
21st century "chicken littles". This cycle of failure and blame must end.
As the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico and fishermen, shrimpers, coastal residents, and
businesses monitor this most recent environmental and economic tsunami; do you think they
wish someone had pushed harder to prevent drilling until "accidents" were not possible? As
delicate and vulnerable marshes and wildlife sanctuaries are threatened and destroyed, do you
think someone should have pushed harder to make sure fail-safe devices didn't fail? As the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues the first license for a new generation of nuclear plants,
do you think someone should protest until the problem of where to store spent fuel rods and
the possibility of "accidents" is eliminated?
Don't count on any help from President Obama. He has already shown he will cave in on
any issue to look bi-partisan. Environmental groups who signed on to move drilling offshore
have shown how easy it is to be stampeded. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will continue
pushing to befoul every coastline, poison every bird or fish, and bury spent fuel rods in your
backyard if it means an extra buck for corporate America. The only way we can prevent
disasters is to not be stampeded, not be afraid to be called names, not be intimidated by
shouts of traitor or of being "un-American". We have to hold politicians and environmental
group's feet to the fire. We must never allow the word "accident" to be used in this context
ever again. Pogo was right. "...we have met the enemy and it is us." What do you think?
I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Sometimes more than one blog is posted at a time, so be sure to check previous blogs
to make sure that you haven't missed anything!