The Real BP Gulf Tragedy
BPSDB Grist reports that “Gulf oil spill panel urges overhaul of oil industry and safety practices.” Apparently a presidential panel in its final report stated that:
“The central lesson to be drawn from the catastrophe is that no less than an overhauling of both current industry practices and government oversight is now required,” the seven-member panel said in the report released after a six-month probe into the environmental and human disaster in the Gulf.”
That sounds positive, but then Kate Sheppard asks “Did we learn anything from the BP oil spill?” and walks us through some of the political realities of what the recommendations actually boil down to, and the political realities of getting them implemented. She summarizes with:
“While many in the environmental community welcomed the commission’s advice, they noted that even those proposals are still not enough to bring the risks of an accident down to zero. Many groups still want see offshore drilling stopped altogether.
“I think the recommendations are pretty tepid given the severity of the crisis,” said Jackie Savitz, director of pollution campaigns at the advocacy group Oceana. But, she admitted, “Even the small things they’re suggesting, I think it’s going to be hard to convince Congress to make those changes.” “
Well I am far more pessimistic than that, and with good reason. At the time I wrote a piece which I believe is still relevant, questioning the whole premise that the tragedy was the spill. Not so. To appreciate the real tragedy you have to play a little “what if”, specifically
What If There Had Been No Spill?
That’s the situation we’re trying to create when we talk about preventing such accidents, right? We don’t want the oil spilling into the ocean and killing the ecosystems there.
So if there were no spill, what would have happened instead?
Some of the oil would undoubtedly wind up as the petrochemical based fertilizers and pesticides which are creating the dead zones in the Gulf when they are washed off of agricultural land. Also contributing to this killing of the oceans is all of the oil based cleaners, solvents and other products that we send down our drains.
Naturally a good proportion would go into the plastics that are so ubiquitous in our lives. Many of those wind up dumped into the oceans where they kill wildlife and form the huge garbage patches at the centre of the circulation gyres (the North Pacific patch is larger than Texas).
Some would help power the industrialized fishing that is destroying the worlds oceans. There is some evidence that the collapse of all fisheries could come in as little as three or four decades . Most of the oil would be burned for power, thereby producing more of the CO2 that is acidifying (ie killing) the oceans.
The extraction of oil is a catastrophe whether it goes as according to plan or not.
We are not talking about whether we save the Gulf – we are quibbling
about whether we get to use the oil before it kills off the oceans, not instead of killing them.
That is the only thing that is at issue. Either way we destroy the Gulf, so can we please stop pretending otherwise?
More to the point perhaps, the destruction is being done to provide us with the goods and services that we choose to pretend are necessary for us. Our personal involvement is very direct and tangible; it is our consumerism that is driving it. The lies we tell ourselves now about “what we need” are going to become apparent when we lack the things we actually do need, like food and water.
Granted, this particular accident that occurred in this particular way is going to boil down to being attributable to some combination of bad decisions on the parts of one or more people. That is a given.
It is also a given that at least some, if not all of the responsibility rests within BP, and probably at fairly high levels within the corporation. There will almost certainly also be some form of regulatory action to attempt to safeguard against another occurrence of this particular accident.
Continue reading at News Junkie Post
1) Commenter Joel points out that “The Onion” did a very similar piece a few weeks after my original post. Great to see the message got out to so many more people than it would have otherwise (even Climate Progress mirrored it … how did I miss that? I think I was out of town).
2) Potholer54 just released a new video taking on 2 Denier memes, one of them the claim that scientists said that the BP Oil spill was altering the Gulf current.
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
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