Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oil and Politics: Reality comes home to roost

The black and white logic of "Tea Party" rage with placard-waving people demanding the U.S. government stay out of their lives has suddenly taken on a new color ... a multi-hued rainbow sheen.

Nightly video of the uniquely American goofiness of angry folks dressing up in silly hats draped with tea bags calling for an end to government regulation has basically dropped off the nation's TV screens. The weak metaphor of tea bags was replaced almost overnight with the real-life drama of an out of control sub-sea oil well blowout belching a thick, noxious layer of oil up to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico some 40 miles off Louisiana.

This past April 20th as angry "don't tread on me" gatherings were demanding government do less regulating, a barely regulated petroleum giant, BP, was reportedly demanding hurried up completion of a deep sea exploratory well a mile beneath its leased drilling rig. We now hear that BP's hubris in pushing to cut costs and boost profits literally blew up in their faces.

Eleven workers died as the Deepwater Horizon became a floating inferno fed with oil and natural gas from an uncontrollable high pressure well blowout. The unthinkable had happened with fail-safe devices failing at all levels turning the drilling rig into an unquenchable fireball which eventually toppled and sank to the sea floor five thousand feet below.

Today marks 53 days that an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day from the well blowout has befouled the Gulf of Mexico waters. By now BP has finally stopped most of their their denials, low-ball estimates and promises that a jury-rigged connecting pipe was "capturing the vast majority" of the oil. Clearly, PR gambits could not keep the oil off the beaches of the Gulf South, or off untold numbers of helpless birds and marine life. It is hard to not see the ugly evidences of a million and a half barrels of oil stretching from Louisiana to Florida ... no matter how much dispersant you spray on it.

This is a marine environmental catastrophe the likes of which the United States has never faced, and it it promises to only get worse as it drags on into the Fall as relief wells will attempt to stop the blowout.

President Obama has been portrayed by the Tea Party folks as a "socialist" for thoughtfully beginning to overhaul and reactivate regulatory agencies across government. Departments that have basically done nothing except the bidding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and lobbyists for giants of industry like BP for more than a decade are finally getting new marching orders. Unfortunately the disgraced Minerals Management Service with its Bush era staffing had not had their house cleaning yet and had allowed BP to skip past major environmental requirements.

I must ask the tea-bag draped folks who insist our government should take a hands-off approach to "their lives" what their reaction is to the increasing disaster along the coastline where I live. We don't see the funny hats and tea bags and self-righteous placards down here any more. Any blame game is long over, replaced by a scramble by hard working people and businesses dependent upon the Gulf just to make it day to day.

If anything, there is a quiet, resigned realization here that while BP is being held responsible for picking up the huge tab for the mess they have made, no one genuinely expects this huge corporation will ever pay up in full. They most certainly will tie up their legal responsibilities in the courts for years and years while we face dealing with the unimaginable long term damage they caused.

As we clean up the mess here, there are lessons to be learned from Valdez, Alaska where, twenty years later, their shores are still polluted from the Exxon Valdez tanker spill and once vital fishing industries have vanished.

To help understand the size of our disaster, the amount of the Valdez spill is now being released into the Gulf of Mexico every 8 to 10 days. This ain't no tea party.

Photo montage by Larry Ray


Anonymous said...

I am in favor of sticking it to the Drill, Baby, Drill, crowd. However, no one, except some obnoxious British papers, have pointed out the US hypocrisy: that is, ultimately, WE are the ones who failed to regulate and even Obama went along to appease the oil crowd--all this because we are obsessed with cheap gasoline at the pumps (still about half of what people in many countries pay). We encouraged deep-water drilling and looked the other way when BP had hundreds of safety violations over the last decade. Maybe, the chickens--the ones that are not oil-soaked-- are coming home to roost.

Jeff Matthews

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Anonymous above says about the U.S. governments under primarily GOP but also and to a lesser degree Dems being complicit in the Gulf of Mexico debacle. I do want to point out however that there is no GOP Teddy Roosevelt on any likely time horizon any time soon, so if you're interested in turning around this oil obsession insanity supertanker and its attendant evils you'd better get behind some good Dems and coax their asses to regulate the shit out of the oil and other polluting industries. And go green now, dammit.

- L.Piltz

Ina Hillebrandt said...

It is a revelation and uplift to read a voice of reason so cogent and moving during this disheartening time. Having once lived in New Orleans, I am doubly heartsick over this oil disgrace, furthering the horrible wake of hurricanes whipped to fury level by the haughtiness of man.

I appreciate the attitude of facing the new disaster expressed by you, Larry, for it gives hope that a solution may yet emerge. Dim hope, I must say, given all the greed everywhere and deep level of threat posed. But hope nonetheless. When up against it, there are those in this country who are extremely good at innovative solutions to the toughest of problems.

Thank you for this take.

Reilly Morse said...

A terrific collage- thanks,


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