Like many of you, I have been consumed by the BP oil rig that went down in the Gulf of Mexico a few weeks back. The thought of hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil spilling into the waters off the Gulf Coast every single day (it just passed the 4 million gallon mark) with no discernible end in sight, sickens me. It is simply impossible to comprehend, or perhaps even to calculate, what the long-term effects of this disaster will be.
As the Senate hearings begin on who did what and when, why, and for what reason, the finger pointing that has been ongoing is ramping up into full swing. Sure BP is at fault due to the fact that it was their rig (by the way, were you aware that the US Government exempted them from environmental review on this specific rig and that they have the worst environmental record of all the oil companies). Sure Haliburton may have built the concrete structures incorrectly and Deepwater Oceanic should have made the “failsafe” shut off valve a bit more failsafe. But the bottom line is, no matter who did their work poorly, or who shirked their responsibilities, at the end of the day, we are the ones who are responsible for the disaster at hand.
That’s right, we are the ones responsible.
BP, like any other oil company, is in the petroleum game for one reason and one reason only: money. And where does that money come from? It comes from us. Either directly by paying to pump it into our vehicles, or indirectly in the planes that we travel in, the plastics that we use to make our lives so much more convenient, and the goods we buy from overseas that are shipped to and fro so we can save some money on a new turnip twaddler. So in essence, if we as a society didn’t keep throwing our money at petroleum, BP and others wouldn’t be drilling for it.
Now I know that I’m going to get flamed for being overly simplistic but if I recall back to my days at the ACME Business School, it all comes down to supply and demand. I should point out that while I may live a lifestyle a little less oil dependent than some, I’m still part of the problem, so this isn’t me pointing the finger as much as me accepting my part of the blame.
So what do we do? Read on.
Most of us can’t up and cut petroleum out of our lives today in one fell swoop, but we can recognize that we are a part of all of this and make a decision to decrease our consumption so that next time this happens (and there will be a next time) we can say “Well, at least they weren’t out there drilling for me.”
Stop driving your car one day a week. If you already do that, go for two. Ride your bike. Take the pledge that you will never accept another plastic bag. Walk. Take one less plane trip a year, or better yet, don’t take any at all. Never drink from another plastic water bottle. Buy organic or still better, grow your own, and make a pledge to only buy local and in season. These may all seem like piddly little things, but if we all started doing them, it’d make a difference.
Once you’ve done all of that, pick up a pen and paper (remember those?) and write a letter. Not to BP, mind you, they already know that they’re in trouble and if you ask me, probably don’t care anyway. Instead, write a letter to the other oil companies and put them on notice. Tell them how angry you are. Tell them if they so much as think of cutting corners on safety and you hear about it, you will boycott them until the end of time. Sound the alarm and scare them into better practices and ask them if they want to end up like BP paying out billions of dollars and taking a huge PR hit at the same time.
Once you’re done with that one, keep on going and pen a note to your reps and any other reps you can think of and tell them if they want to get re-elected, they better stop talking about fossil fuels and start talking about renewable energy. Point out the coal mining disaster of last month, the oil rig disaster we are currently dealing with, and the ones that are sure to come in the weeks and months ahead, and then ask them how many people have been killed by windmills and solar panels. Put them on notice and let them know you are paying attention, because frankly, an energy future that looks like the one we have presently, is no future at all.
Finally if you really want to do something concrete, head down to the Gulf and get your hands dirty. Personally speaking, I think everyone who’s been screaming “Drill Baby Drill” should be at the head of the line, but that’s just me.
OK, that’s my rant. I’m off to write a few letters and then go for a nice ride on my bike.