Kind of Red

May 31, 2010

Oil and Water

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 12:49 pm

May 24, 2010 Satellite image provided by NASA from the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer Instrument

Yesterday morning, as millions of parishioners poured into houses of worship across the nation, hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.  Around the time many churches began their services, Carol M. Browner, the President’s top energy advisor, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to discuss the government’s response to what many have called the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s historyBrowner said more oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico than from any previous U.S. oil spill, including the epic Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 that left roughly 11 million gallons of oil (or about 260,000 barrels) in the waters off the Alaskan coast.  She also said the spill may continue into August, which means the oil spill will only be more complicated by hurricane season.

The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank about fifty-two miles offshore from Venice, LA on April 20th, and the well it drilled subsequently began shooting oil into the Gulf of Mexico at alarming rates.  The leak, from 5,000 feet beneath the ocean, has proven to be far bigger than initially reported, and is contributing to a nagging sense of déjà vu, as the Louisiana government feels the federal government has failed it once again.   While most public attention has focused on the shoreline, where dead birds and dead dolphins continue to emerge, scientists have more concern for the underwater chemistry because they have little idea how the ecosystems will react to such a catastrophe.  Naturally, it is hard to ignore images of sea turtles with oil stuck on their corneas, dolphins washed up on shore and lifeless brown pelicans hauled away in plastic bags, but what transpires on the depths of the ocean floor and its root systems of coastal marshes might suffer the most significant long-term damage.

As the damage continues to increase, so does the level of criticism for BP America, the company that operated the rig that led to the spill.  Protests have spilled into the streets and at various BP gas stations across the country as the company’s oil continues spilling into the Gulf and prepares to slosh along the Louisiana shore. The federal government has joined in the public criticism as well. For example, Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano said, “It is clear that after several unsuccessful attempts to secure the source of the leak, it is time for BP to supplement their current mobilization as the slick of oil moves toward shore.” Congress also called BP America and its drilling partners to hearings organized to address the “cascade of failures” that led to the spreading of the Gulf oil spill.  In consecutive Senate hearings, lawmakers chided executives from BP America, Hailburton and Transocean, the three companies responsible for the massive spill.  Executives from the three companies then proceeded to pass the blame for the catastrophe onto each other.  The cycle of blame continued to circulate as critics have increasingly pressured President Obama to respond more forcefully to the growing crisis. This is ironic considering recent calls to limit government intrusions in everyday American life.

From left: Alabama Governor Bob Riley, President Obama, Admiral Thad Allen and Florida Governor Charlie Crist at a press conference addressing the oil spill

Seemingly lost amidst the incessant criticism of private companies and the federal government is a sense of personal responsibility.  As the distinct odor of crude oil creeps along the Louisiana shore to the point that now the air tastes of gasoline and its surrounding waters begin to “look like brownie batter,” we should reduce some of our criticism of BP America, Haliburton, Transocean, the federal government, et al, and seek to discern how our own lifestyle decisions and lust for overconsumption led to the drilling that sought to satisfy our insatiable desire for more.  Beyond the three companies’ greed to profit off of America’s consumerism lies personal accountability within the ignitions of our gas guzzling SUVs.  Will we take responsibility for careless consumption and spending habits that sent us offshore to find more oil to satisfy our indulgences? When will we take account for our reckless chants to “drill baby, drill?”

President Obama recently discussed why he never joined the pandemonium on the campaign trail clamoring for more offshore drilling, and reiterated why by saying plainly, “[T]hat’s part of the reason you never heard me say drill, baby, drill. Because we can’t drill our way out of the problem.” It would seem as though prior opponents to the idea of limiting offshore drilling have succumb to greater volumes of discretion as the crude oil continues to pump into the Gulf, but it seems as though the common American has swiftly forgotten how he or she shouted pro drilling chants with some of their favored politicians two short years ago.  The BP oil spill has begun to cause me to reconsider how I might “draw the line on my energy consumption,” and potentially encourages others to do the same.  All of us should do so, because all of us play a part in the mechanisms that drive our demand for oil.  Particularly, those who called upon the name of God yesterday morning should do so, considering He gave us dominion over the earth so that we might be proper stewards of it.  This crisis should make us all ponder our stewardship thus far.  My prayer is that these considerations are not too late.


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