The Gulf oil leak has given environmentalists a perfect opportunity to expose the insanity and greed mongering of deep sea offshore drilling and to show how the GOP “drill, baby, drill” philosophy is a major component of what created the country’s worst environmental crisis in its history.
Nothing shows this opportunity more than a recent poll that shows 83 percent of the American people disapprove of the way oil giant BP has responded to the leak, which is gushing millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, killing wildlife, dirtying beaches, stopping fishing in some areas and hurting tourism.
It’s an epic environmental and financial calamity that has made for typical GOP contradictions. For example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a member of the “drill, baby, drill” party urged President Barack to lift a temporary moratorium on deep sea offshore drilling so oil companies, such as BP, could continue their great work in the Gulf. At the same time, he’s been critical of BP. So which is it, Jindal? Are these oil companies looking out for our best interests or not? Should we let them drill without additional oversight and regulation?
The real opportunity here is in the outrage against BP’s mistakes and response. This is an opportunity for Americans to wake up from their corporate-induced slumber and realize huge oil companies, such as BP, care only about their profits and feel no responsibility to the environment. What they do to safeguard the environment, whether in the ocean or on land, must be dictated by government regulation. Does anyone really think this is not true, that the market will somehow correct environmental damage on the scale that is currently happening in the Gulf?
And, oh yeah, isn’t BP just too big to fail no matter what it does? The British government apparently thinks so.
This is also an opportunity to teach that the future rests with alternative, renewable energy sources, including wind and solar power. True, fossil fuels are supposed to continue to dominate our energy scene in the U.S. for years to come, but at what cost to the environment?
In an email to his supporters before he flew back again to the Gulf, President Barack Obama asked for support for a “clean-energy future” and wrote:
The BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast is the worst environmental disaster of its kind in our nation’s history. I am returning to the region today to review our efforts and meet with families and business owners affected by the catastrophe.
We are working to hold BP accountable for the damage to the lands and the livelihoods of the Gulf Coast, and we are taking strong precautions to make certain a spill like this never happens again.
But our work will not end with this crisis. That’s one of the reasons why last week I invited lawmakers from both parties to join me at the White House to discuss what it will take to move forward on legislation to promote a new economy powered by green jobs, combat climate change, and end our dependence on foreign oil.
Today, we consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than two percent of the world’s oil reserves. Beyond the risks inherent in drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth, our dependence on oil means that we will continue to send billions of dollars of our hard-earned wealth to other countries every month — including many in dangerous and unstable regions.
In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.
The president went on to argue:
The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a new future. That means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything — from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks — more energy-efficient. It means rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.
Many businesses support this agenda because shifting to clean energy creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. This is how we will reinvent our economy — and create new companies and new jobs all across the country.
There will be transition costs and a time of adjustment. But if we refuse to heed the warnings from the disaster in the Gulf — we will have missed our best chance to seize the clean-energy future we know America needs to thrive in the years and decades to come.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn’t see the idea of creating more clean and renewable energy as a major story that has emerged from the crisis, even though it’s as obvious as the tar balls showing up on the Gulf’s beaches. This is short-sighted. Some media outlets also want to depict the crisis as Obama’s “Katrina” when instead the disaster is a culmination of what happens when you allow unbridled corporate power to determine how the environment will or will not be protected.
Obama’s poll numbers on how he has handled the crisis-52 percent disapprove his handling of the disaster-will also be big news, not his statements about green energy. But, as I argued before, Obama didn’t invent the SUV. He’s consistently favored green energy development. He doesn’t want to see people in the Gulf suffer financially. The big oil corporations got what they wanted and this is the result.
Plugging the leak is the main issue, but the crisis should be a referendum on corporate malfeasance and irresponsibility, not Obama. It should be about developing cleaner energy sources and about protecting the planet for future generations.