The public outrage being expressed at the ineptitude of oil giant BP for not having a backup plan to deal with their disaster and the apparent time-honored collusion of oil interests positioned in government oversight agencies like the Minerals Management Services (MMS) is being lost on the industry leadership and their congressional cohorts in the House and Senate.
Instead of aiming their vast resources towards correcting what went wrong in the first place as a strategy to prevent another environmental disaster of this magnitude, BP and many conservative supporters are spending billions on a PR campaign to correct their image of uncaring executives who cut corners on safety and equipment to boost their bottom line and appease stockholders. This was the same approach that led to the Gulf Oil failure at the Deepwater Horizon rig this last April.
A decade ago the upper management team at BP made a decision to promote a “green” image to give consumers the impression that BP was “Beyond Petroleum” and leaning toward the inevitable demise of fossil fuels by showing a willingness to invest in cleaner technologies of wind, solar and bio-fuels. Billions were spent to create this image but in comparison pennies were actually expended on developing these greener sources of energy. BP does not stand alone in the fossil fuel industries creating this deception to the public.
Furthermore, there are those in government who offer a counter-balance approach to this false image by insisting that we need the offshore oil and cannot let our drilling efforts slow down to “achieve energy independence”. This argument really doesn’t have legs to stand on based on the data yet it is as interesting as it is frustrating to watch pro-oil and coal legislators lay out arguments to defend it.
Recent examples of this latter absurdity is Louisiana’s Senator Mary Landrieu warning that a moratorium on new off-shore oil drilling would “wreak economic havoc on this region that exceeds the havoc wreaked by the oil spill, the worst in American history” if it was extended beyond a few months. “On behalf of the people I represent, I am asking: Can you give any time certain that we can get our people back to work?”, Ms. Landrieu pleaded at a recent hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Her Republican counterpart, David Vitter has expressed the same sentiment.
It isn’t clear which people she or Vitter represent. Simply asking regulatory agencies to consider jobs over job safety and showing support for an energy source that no longer exists in quantities within our possession to meet our public and private needs will not resolve long-term economic needs for citizens of Louisiana, or any other Gulf state finding its shores threatened by black waves of oil. The U.S. owns only 3% of the known oil reserves in the world yet consumes 25% of what is being produced currently. Many experts believe we have already reached our peak oil level, meaning that we can no longer find the supply to meet future demands. Demands will continue to grow while oil continues to decrease.
If jobs were the main concern here wouldn’t Landrieu and Vitter be more inclined to encourage investment in the green technologies of the future that are set to create nearly 2 million new jobs by 2020. Why continue to prop up the industry that has devastated their state and is the largest contributor behind the coal industry of green house gas emissions that pollute our air and water as well as increasing the rate of global warming? There is no future in fossil fuels and yet this reality continues to elude oil and coal state politicians.
It is clear, even to the most passionate advocate of clean energy that we cannot divest ourselves anytime soon from the dirty fossil fuels of coal and oil we have incorporated into our way of life over the past two centuries. There has to be a planned time-frame to gradually wean ourselves off of these toxic elements that soil our land, air and water. We need to start now so that in 20-30 years we will no longer be dependent on fossil fuels as our primary source of energy. This is ample time to convert many of the coal and oil jobs to ones that will develop, build and install solar panels, windmills, bio-fuel processing plants and thermonuclear facilities.
To wait any longer than we already have does not bode well for the U.S. economy. China and the European Union are already years ahead of us on clean energy technology, especially with wind. Our ability to compete with these two in the future is being hampered everyday by the likes of Landrieu, Vitter and the other coal and oil state politicians who drag their feet as they discourage green technology investment while encouraging “drill baby, drill” and removing another mountain top.
The political and private interest that rail against reducing expensive and time-consuming efforts to remove the more difficult placed oil and coal left for consumption are clearly not poised to take this nation or lead the world into the 21st century. Their mind is set in a past period when coal and oil were king and queen and the industry titans in those fields dominated the markets and the political mechanism that moved this country to the head of world communities. Those times have changed however. Knowledge of what fossil fuel resources remain and the health hazards they pose to humans and environment exceed that time when we were coming of age as a nation.
Now that we have arrived it is time to take the knowledge with our advancements in science and move onto the next level that will sustain our country and others in the global community. It is detrimental to future growth and survivability to dismiss the hazards of those elements that brought us to this point. Addictions are not easily defeated but they become impossible to deal with when people are in denial or have unrealistic views about them.
As a former smoker I would often dismiss my addiction with unrealistic perceptions of having plenty of time to quit or believe there was a greater benefit from the relief I got from the nicotine fix that supposedly helped me cope with daily stresses. Both views were unhealthy and by the time I would have concluded it was too late to acknowledge either, my body would have reached a point of no return and death would have come a lot earlier for me. Fortunately my brain kicked in about 30 years ago as I realized that I was playing with fire with my personal health. I ultimately became convinced that what the science was saying about smoking was more accurate than any unfounded position I had contrived.
We as a nation can also kick the addictions to our oil and coal fix, but we need to listen to people who really do have our best interest at heart. We can no longer be faithfully served by individuals whose belief in something has been exposed as a threat to our civilization and who continue to block the efforts to truly get “beyond petroleum”. We need the leadership and role models of those who will not falsely promise us Nirvana or paralyze us with the fear of change but honestly present us with reality-based data, no matter how negative it appears, and sensibly manage us through the conversion from dirtier, unhealthy fossil fuels to cleaner, greener technologies.
There’s a new generation today who has the capacity to work through the complexities that this transition challenges us with. It is time to move forward with that generation and replace those who would prevent us from adapting to a new way of life that will prove as economically prosperous as our earlier innovative capabilities did while eliminating the environmental threat that new generation faces from old loyalties.