Global environmental challenges
Now is not the time to research oil cleanup
– Rona Fried, Ph.D., is CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news and networking site for green businesses: including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter. Any views expressed here are her own. —
Before the catastrophic BP oil drilling failure, polls showed that Americans favored oil drilling as a safe way to increase our energy independence. This was after decades of polls trending in the opposite direction.
Are Americans learning something from this?
I submit that Americans have become too trusting and complacent toward multinational corporations – will this be a wake-up call? Since the Obama Administration came into office, we’ve seen stark reminders of corporate greed and lack of appropriate regulatory oversight in just about every industry – the recent coal mining accidents, the outrageous behavior of Wall Street firms, a health care industry that raises premiums 40 percent even in the face of regulation, and now an oil industry that proves it’s completely unprepared to deal with an accident.
It’s bad enough that BP and the U.S. government have no idea how to stop or contain the oil spill, but why couldn’t they protect the shorelines and wetlands from the inevitable drift of oil?
Is it too much to ask that before oil drilling is approved that a plan be in place to prevent it from reaching our shores?
Is it too much to ask that before oil drilling is approved that best available technologies to deal with an accident be identified, purchased and stockpiled?
Now is NOT the time to evaluate and research various oil dispersants! Why wasn’t this done long ago? The least toxic oil dispersant – or better yet, a nontoxic biodegradable substance – should have been integrated into protocol by now.
Watching television footage of the spill, it’s alarming to see people using garden shovels to lift oil drenched sand and put it in plastic bags! Is this our best available “technology?”
Obviously, there’s been no effort to develop appropriate, effective technologies. The same methods used in the Exxon Valdez spill – that didn’t work –are being used today. Using paper towels to remove the oil from animals’ bodies, using flimsy booms to protect the shore, and using dispersants that are known to be toxic to the very ecosystems we’re trying to protect.
It’s high time we focus on developing much more advanced, non-toxic technologies in addition to extensive implementation plans, or sorry, no oil drilling allowed.
We’ll see whether Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal changes his mind about promoting oil drilling versus an emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy to solve our nation’s energy needs.
Although he voted against the stimulus bill as part of the Republican block and criticizes “big government” and deficits, he’s being extremely aggressive in obtaining every conceivable avenue for disaster funding for his state.
But his idea for ameliorating this spill is a good one – build barrier islands off the coast to stop the oil from reaching the shore. Barrier islands would not only protect the coast from oil spills, they would help prevent another Katrina by buffeting strong winds and tides.
Now, the idea is being researched for potential negative impacts on currents, coastal erosion, and wildlife habitat. Again, why wasn’t this researched and a plan put in place a long time ago? Why are people scrambling to figure it out now?
Even worse is the inaction and utter lack of emergency response. Jindal has been asking for dredging to build barrier islands for two weeks to no avail. BP commissioned private fishing boats to combat approaching oil, but didn’t bother to send them out to lay out the flimsy, “protective” boom until the oil came ashore.
President Obama says there’s a moratorium on new permits for offshore drilling, yet permits have been handed out since this accident occurred. And unbelievably, he hasn’t halted plans for Shell to drill in the Arctic this summer, where there’s absolutely no doubt that an accident would be catastrophic.
Imagine the same challenges as the Gulf, plus bitter cold, ice, extreme wind and wave conditions, 24-hour darkness for months and response equipment for a blowout of this size being weeks away. Right now, Shell is scheduled to start exploratory drilling in early July.
We watch day after day after day expecting appropriate action, yet nothing happens – except for the oil leaching further and further into wetlands, coating untold thousands of sea turtles, pelicans (taken off the endangered species list this year!) and countless other animals.
And all we have to help them is paper towel.