comments_image Comments

Brace Yourself: This Is the Tip of the Iceberg for Oil-Induced Enviro Catastrophes

The blame-game theory is still a red herring distracting us from the environmental disaster's prime suspect: All of us.

After considering laughably titled solutions like the top hat (a containment dome), the junk shot (a pressurized blast of golf balls and shredded tires) and worse, British Petroleum has proven one thing above all else: When the fossil fool hits the fan, it simply has no plan.

The fact that BP was allowed to drill along the shores of the United States in spite of its unwillingness to plan and prepare for accidents is only stunning to those haven't been paying attention to the feverish pace of deregulation since the rapacious Reagan conservatives took global culture by blitzkrieg. It certainly isn't surprising to anyone who has been paying even slight attention to BP, which boasts a decorated resume of spills and screw-ups.

According to recent revelations, a blowout preventer that could have halted the Deepwater Horizon clustergush failed a crucial pressure test hours before the April 20 explosion, and was never tested by the government engineer who approved BP's drilling operation. Those kinds of safety lapses are standard operating procedure, an oil industry whistleblower told the Huffington Post, saying he routinely witnessed 100 such shortcuts on BP rigs and others throughout 18 years of service in the sector. The fallback plan, a relief well, won't be finished until after the summer, by which there will be little reason left to live in New Orleans. Great. 

But if you've been railing for decades against the fossil fuel sector for everything from deliberately removing safeguards that could have prevented what will likely end up being the worst U.S. oil disaster in history to its lethal emissions that could, in the extreme, end up warming planet Earth to the point that human habitation is an impossibility, well, this is all old, sad news. 

Cold Oil Turkey 

"While this is a horrible disaster, it occurs to me that Americans cannot accept the fact that getting oil out of the earth is dirty, difficult, hazardous work, with great risks for society," said James Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency and Geography of Nowhere. "We don't want to know about it, as long as we can drive comfortably to the strip mall, enjoy NPR and an iced beverage. When something happens to prick our bubble of unreality, we're indignant." 

The counter-argument to Kunstler's hard-eged realism -- which is thankfully gaining steam every day the Deepwater Horizon disaster gushes hundreds of thousands, if not a million, gallons of crude into the Gulf -- is that further regulation and safety enforcement could put at least a partial stop to the fossil foolishness. Which means legally proving that BP, Halliburton and Transocean deliberately obviated what safety requirements existed so that the United States can conduct criminal proceedings which could then levy heftier damages than $75 million cap on liability under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which itself was hastily enacted by Congress under President George H.W. Bush shortly after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

It also means exacting deeper regulation on the nation's compromised Minerals Management Service, which the Department of the Interior is considering splitting into two separate agencies. From taking drugs and having sex with energy company reps to being exempted from delivering detailed environmental analyses, the MMS is a controversy-soaked frat house. And its parent agency at Interior is the same hot mess. It's obvious that, when it comes to America's oil regime, the lunatics are drilling the asylum into the bedrock. So it's probably no surprise that neither agency returned several calls for comment. 

But add it up and it's one hell of a cleanup for a country with an unceasing appetite for hyperconsumption but little stomach for hard work. Which is why the blame-game theory, while it makes for good theater and hopefully better punitive damages, is still a red herring distracting us from the environmental disaster's prime suspect: All of us.