Citizens must analyze the politics of oil

Published 10:08 am Friday, June 4, 2010

“Trust me, “ the young man said, “We don’t need a condom.”

“It is a great loan. ARM’s are the best home loan” the banker said.

“We know how to safely drill for deep water oil. And if anything goes wrong we know how to fix it” said BP, the giant oil company.

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“What will you believe, me, or your lying eyes” the late Groucho Marx once said.

Now famous lies, each told for the simplest of all reasons, personal advantage. It is now more than apparent that none of the oil industry people know how to stop deep water drilling leaks. No one on the planet has come forward with a workable solution to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

And while the oil continues to damage the environment in the ocean and along the gulf coast we now must accept that this could happen again from careless management, reckless operation, poor oversight, hurricanes, or simply random error. And when and if it happens again, no one knows how to fix it.

That is the reality of this event.

Some advocates for offshore drilling remind us this is the first such accident in 40 years. Great. So is frequency of failure a comforting thought when the damage to the environment, the ocean, tourism and jobs may last another 40 years?

Other supporters remind us that accidents happen. Really? If I hit my mailbox backing out of my driveway while under the influence of alcohol, that is an accident. If I then run over my neighbor’s dog, back through his living room, rupture his gas line and set his house on fire, is that just an accident? No big deal, accidents happen?

And then many say we need the oil so badly we must accept risks like this one. They have a point. Our dependence on foreign oil has only increased over the past four decades and the Gulf of Mexico holds some of the largest oil reserves in the world. And, let’s face it, without oil our economy grinds to a speedy halt.

Is that really the end of this story. Once the well is capped, closed, diverted, or re-directed off-shore drilling simply goes back to work and all of this is forgotten?

Maybe. We need the oil. Our economy benefits from the jobs created. It reduces the use of oil from Middle East countries that are unstable in their relations with America. Maybe we clean up, dust ourselves off, and drill new wells off of the beaches of the Carolina’s and California. New locations off of all the East coast and West coast.

And if not that, then what? What does the Gulf spill mean to US energy policy?

Maybe this president is right in his support for the development of alternative energy resources. Maybe we need more solar energy, more geo thermal, more wind farms, more natural gas power, more nuclear energy and more innovation. Maybe we need hydrogen, natural gas and electric cars. Maybe we need a national high speed rail system and better conversion of waste into energy and plants into fuel.

America was once far and away the leader in innovation technology. No longer, at least not in energy technology. France uses largely nuclear power; Brazil uses sugar based ethanol to power their engines; China built the high speed train to the highest altitude ever constructed. The US? Tied to the oldest technologies in energy.

Perhaps we will see in this spill the true importance of our environment and the real need for innovation. Or, Groucho was right.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.