I have to start with an apology because contrary to what the title of this piece would suggest, I don’t know what the answer is to fixing the BP spill, nor do I suspect, do you. Neither of us is an engineer, an underwater drill technician, or anything that would remotely give us the expertise needed to right this wrong. Instead, I would like to suggest what I think you should be doing because of the BP spill.
There has been a lot of talk of late about this being your Katrina moment. Perhaps it has already become that. The relative silence that we hear from the government on this disaster has been, in my estimation, deafening. But I would like to suggest that there is still the opportunity for you to shine in this situation and for future generations to remember you as the man who stood up and finally said “enough.” The BP oil spill may presently be your Katrina moment, but if you stand up now, it could very well end up being your 9/11 moment and your own personal moonshot all rolled into one.
There has never been a better moment for a president to tell the nation that the time to get off of fossil fuels has come. In the past few months we have waited with baited breath to see if miners from the Upper Big Branch Mine had made it out alive. We have seen the plumes of oil rising from the ocean floor, unchecked, and entering our pristine waterways at an alarming rate. We have listened as the leaders of BP, with more audacity than I can believe, have claimed that the spill is not as bad as we are being led to believe. And, sadly, we continue to watch the news from Iraq and Afghanistan, areas of the world that we would never be involved in were it not for the precious black gold that we are all so addicted to.
It is a perfect storm of sorts at a point in your presidency where you badly need to define who you are and who you are going to be. It is time to stand up and lay down the gauntlet. Fossil fuels are destroying our planet, our society, and cheapening the lives we lead through our addiction. We are tired of being run by big oil and the corporations that work for them. It is time to take our country back.
So please President Obama, I urge you, please consider what is at stake. Consider the options, and consider our future. When President Kennedy proclaimed that in ten years time we would send a man to the moon and safely return him to earth, he honestly had no idea if that could be done, and neither did the scientists who were advising him. We are in a similar situation now and your leadership could make the difference. Can we become energy independent using renewable energy? In 10 years? 20 years? Who knows, but we won’t find out unless we put a timeline on it and make it stick.
If you were to get up right now and make a speech using the words “addicted to fossil fuels” and explaining that the addiction must end. If you were to ask the people of the United States if they want to continue paying for energy or generating it themselves. If you were to point out that without the need for petroleum, we would not be fighting wars in places we have no other interests. Do you really think most of America would not be behind you?
And on top of that, why not turn this into a learning experience for our children? Put all the BP info about what they are up against, along with info about renewable energy, how much we have, and how much we need, up on a site for kids. Then publicly tell them that we the adults need their help and that every science class in the country needs to start working on these problems right now and submitting their solutions. Challenge them to fix this problem. I know it sounds ridiculous, but right now, we need 100,000 minds working on this problem and if nothing else, this will spark a renewed interest in science, something our country badly needs. Edison was a kid once right, so who’s to say the answer isn’t out there.
Finally President Obama, I recognize how out in left field most of this seems, and realize that politically many will tell you that it is suicide. So after you’ve talked with your advisors, the executives, and whoever else you listen to, make one final stop before you decide. Ask your daughters what you should do. I’ve mentioned this before, but trust me, if you want the right answer, they’ll know and so will you.
I wish you well and hope that you will take my thoughts to heart. I understand that you are furious, but so are we, the only difference between you and I is that you have more power to do something about it.
“We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.” -Kurt Vonnegut