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Remember: Is this really what it has to take? (Our addiction to Oil)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Is this really what it has to take? (Our addiction to Oil)

The worst man-made natural disaster is expanding its reach of ecological Armageddon as you read this.  Scientists and government authorities have begun releasing to the public a “nightmare scenario” where the uncontrolled gush of the oil well manages to get picked up by the Gulf Stream and taken all the way up the East Coast and into the heart of the Atlantic Ocean.

For now, the oil is expected to wash ashore either today or tomorrow.  As that occurs, the extent of damage caused to marine animals and birds will begin to become apparent.  A scientist is quoted in the New York Daily News this morning saying, “The animals threatened most by the spill are bluefin tuna, sea turtles, brown pelicans, shrimp and sharks.”

Before this oil spill, the Gulf Coast was already in terrible ecological shape. This quote is from Elizabeth Carlisle at Tulane Univeristy:

  “ The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone is a seasonal phenomena occurring in the northern Gulf of Mexico, from the mouth of the Mississippi River to beyond the Texas border.  It is more commonly referred to as the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, because oxygen levels within the zone are too low to support marine life.  The Dead Zone was first recorded in the early 1970's. It originally occurred every two to three years, but now occurs annually.  In the summer of 1999 the Dead Zone reached its peak, encompassing 7,728 square miles.

    Hypoxic conditions arise when dissolved oxygen levels in the water fall below two milligrams per liter of water, too low to sustain animal life in the bottom strata of the ocean. The Dead Zone forms each spring as the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers empty into the Gulf, bringing nutrient rich waters that form a layer of fresh water above the existing salt water. It lasts until late August or September when it is broken up by hurricanes or tropical storms.  The nutrients provide favorable conditions for excessive growth of algae that utilize the water’s oxygen supply for respiration and when decomposing. “

It would seem that we have been trying to destroy the waters of the Gulf Coast for years, and now, we have finally done it.

This disaster has occurred because of the sick addiction this country has for oil.  For decades, the call for alternative energy has gone without heed from federal and most local governments.  The general American public continues to guzzle oil without question en masse and unless gas prices hit 4 bucks a gallon or the entire gulf coast is covered in oil, not many even think to question it.

The closest our national debate ever turns to alternative energy is during election cycles.  Inevitably each candidate pledges to “end our addiction to foreign oil.”  During the last presidential election one of the flash quotes came from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.  With a wink, she turned to the camera and said “ Drill Baby Drill.”

Mrs. Palin, kindly visit the gulf coast this week and continue a campaign for just that. 

No candidate should pledge to “end our addiction to foreign oil.”  They should make certain, as active legislators to end our addiction to oil.  To consider such a thing, after truly examining the extent to which oil is used in this country, seems absurd.  In terms of consumption, nothing we touch, eat or use on a daily basis in America has been clear of the touch of oil somewhere during its development.

Expect more of these disasters folks, and every time we eat at chain restaurants, buy factory farmed produce, shop at big box stores, and drive our cars needlessly we condone the practices that led to the current disaster and the future ones.

Our addiction to oil and the subsequent consequences of it are like the entirety of the United States, smoking a giant cigarette 24 hours a day and expecting to never get lung cancer. 

Today, and hopefully from now on (but I doubt it), Americans should see clearly the need for a new era of progressive alternative energy development in this country.  Americans should be prepared, to turn excess lights off, drive less, make the minor sacrifices that will lead to a genuine new century of American innovation and prosperity.

So often, you hear politicians speak of the ingenuity of Americans through history.  When was the last time we were a country of innovation?  Check the tag on your clothes right now, I’ll bet you 10 bucks it wasn’t made here, barely anything is. 

Now, consider the jobs created by wind farms in Washington (state),  Texas, Oregon, off the coasts in places where even President Obama want to erect more oil wells.  Consider the pride that would be felt by an individual going to work at a new job everyday that directly contributes to a healthy planet and a clean and self reliant America.

Alas, such a shift in thinking seems years away.  No truly progressive energy legislation is anywhere close to being passed in DC. Until such a time comes, batten down the hatches folks, this stuff is going to keep happening.  Don’t forget, it may not be an oil spill, but rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of weather events, rise in disease occurrence, etc etc etc

This disaster, is this really what it has to take to shake this country out of its oil daze and wake up to the reality of such a destructive mass existence?

Sad thing is, I don’t think it will.

See Also:

The 6 worst case scenarios of the Gulf Coast oil spill

(That article is a doozy)

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Blogger michael molovinsky said...

i share your absolute horror about this oil spill. however, i don't think the problem lies in drilling for oil in general, but lack of rules on high risk drilling, such as an ocean platform. those platforms should have redundant safety shutoff features.

May 2, 2010 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Katie Bee said...

I agree, wholeheartedly, that we need to stop fooling ourselves with the phantom carrying capacity that oil provides - we need to stop sourcing, as Thomas Friedman calls them, "Fuels From Hell" and produce "Fuels From Heaven" with the full force that this country is capable of.

However, do not equate ingenuity with production. Though the shirt I'm wearing now was made in the US, most of my clothing comes from egypt, china, indonesia, pakistan, salvador and india. I would not say that most of these countries are very innovative with their export processing zones that invite global corporations to exploit their citizens.

i'm not one for saying that globalization should be reversed, but I definitely think that we need to localize our a lot of our production - mostly food and clothing. Other than that, everything's just gotta change. and fast.

May 2, 2010 at 12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today's Sunday news shows broadcast an almost-Armageddon scenario with the oil uncontained for months and thousands upon thousands of gallons pouring into the ocean floor, the shorelines and onto land. One biologist said some species will never return, ever.

May 2, 2010 at 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait for the photographs.

May 2, 2010 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I've learned about this particular oil spill(there have been many of these gruesome, killing oil-events during my adult life) there were redundant safety shutoff systems in place---all four of them failed (how does that happen?).

Now local economies down there will be crushed further. Wildlife:
numberless living creatures will suffer a horrible death--coated in crude oil and poisoned by sheer toxicity. Wave after wave of damaging nightmare... again. Yes, this bothers me.


May 2, 2010 at 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first time that I read the term "U.S. addicted to oil" was, probably, in Gary Snyder's book
Earth Household, his journal that he wrote, and pulished in the 60's.

That was 50 years ago. A long time in which our ignorance, as a nation, has persisted. "Business is business" manipulation and the inertia of social structures... the refusal of people and politicians to look at real problems which are overunning our lives.
As the poet said, "This world is flashy dust leading to the fakest fake".

Ulrich Stegna

May 2, 2010 at 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


May 3, 2010 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger John said...

Until we reform our election system there is no reason to concern ourselves with better rules it just can't happen, we've made it impossible to elect a good person let alone a legislative body, you can't win with your ideology intact its not possible. That said an industry that has made the kind of money that they've made in the past few years should be held to a higher standard, but the bitch is that they will make so much money off of this. Not just off the back of the environment but also the people who live on the coast. The american dream is to get yours with out any perspective on how you got it. We stand on others backs and them blame them when their backs break. This is a good example. no one is going to help these people, they will do some cleaning up because its the quick story and no doubt some new rules but their just words to be interpreted and executed by the next group of politicians who lost their integrity in the primaries. The implications of the supreme court decision to make citizens out of corporations is all encompassing it effects everything including this and while there was a little bucking in response it is not getting the attention it deserves. We've come to the conclusion that its better to pay other people to think than to think for ourselves. The scam is the more you give, the more involved you are with this political system in its current state the less impact you have. How can any rules that this system can agree upon have any real impact?

May 3, 2010 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger John said...

Andrew, I liked your points about not just working to end our reliance on "foreign" oil but on oil. I we are so fucked that we actually subsidize ethanol as an alternative energy source. Not only do we use as much oil as we supplement in the process but we pay more for it in the process and lose potential resources for actual food that could positively impact the our health directly and indirectly through a larger percentage of our livestock being fed nutritious food instead of corn and anti-biotics. We're not addicted to oil we are addicted to industry. If cacti were a huge global industry our livestock would be high as shit on on peyote.

As for the part about the hypoxic zone i think is good but you conclude it by saying that it is evidence that we have been negatively impacting the environment for a while but you don't suggest how we are impacting this problem only, that the river run offs are creating fresh water pools in the gulf, how is this not natural? I'm sure there are implications in the quote but for us who are less informed.... Just being a pain in your ass aren't you glad I finally posted a comment?

May 3, 2010 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger michael molovinsky said...

according to frank, at 7:39, there were multiple shutoffs that failed. considering the consequences of this "accident", perhaps the time has come to ban ocean drilling. ironically, more permits for such have been recently issued. if we cannot combat such a leak in the calm gulf of mexico, what would happen in the turbulent north sea?

May 5, 2010 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Katie Bee said...


Where did you learn this? Because as far as I understand, there is a moratorium on new offshore wells. There has been, however, an offshore wind farm approved for development along Cape Cod, I believe.

May 5, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

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