Paul Andersen: Fair Game
July 25, 2010
By the hue and cry of the right wing, you’d think Barack Obama was the head driller on the Deepwater Horizon rig, the safety inspector, the drilling regulator, and the CEO of BP. Give the guy a break – he’s only the president!
It’s not Obama’s oil spill; it’s ours. We own it because we are the consumers who enjoy the easy motoring afforded by the drill rigs, refineries and pipelines that produce the lifeblood of American prosperity – cheap oil.
Energy consultant Randy Udall calls Americans the “Oil Tribe” because we live in a culture whose daily life cycle revolves around inserting a gas nozzle into our car’s receptacle in a metaphor for energy intercourse. Udall’s conclusion is that, like a long married spouse, we take this refueling ritual too much for granted.
Oil is a huge part of our diet. We eat oil via fertilizers and fuels necessary for large-scale agriculture. We wear the stuff as synthetic clothing, sit on it in the form of plastic chairs, stand on it as floor coverings, cover our homes with it in shingles, package goods with it, and spend with it every time we swipe our plastic cards.
Instead of labeling the BP debacle “Obama’s Katrina,” every consumer in America is culpable. We all benefit from cheap oil taken by the cheapest means – which translates to minimal safety precautions by the cavalier cadre of a cash-for-carbon company.
It was reported last week that China has eclipsed the United States as the largest energy user. The United States consumes the highest per capita, but the Chinese, by sheer mass, are gulping more gross energy. The Chinese, therefore, are our greatest competitors for oil. And since competition for a limited resource tends to drive prices higher, we can expect to pay a rising market value for our gas-powered gluttony against the Chinese Yuan.
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It’s fitting that the Chinese have their own oil spill, making the two biggest energy users the two biggest ocean polluters. Each disaster raises the price of oil higher still as seascapes and coastal regions are damaged by the drill-baby-drill mentality that’s been going on long before Sarah Palin uttered that absurd mantra.
The billion-dollar question is: How many other wells are leaking Earth’s precious bodily fluids into waterways and ecosystems? With more than 24,000 abandoned holes in the ocean floor, it is no wonder that another leak has been detected in the area of Deep Horizon. These puncture wounds to the planet don’t heal on their own, but that’s the assumption made by oil companies that slap on a band aid and move on.
Filling the gas tank is a mindless routine for most drivers who ignore the real cost of gas, which is seen in gradual environmental degradation through cumulative well leaks and in airborne emissions that contribute to climate change. Another cost is the enrichment of feckless foreign powers we may later do battle against.
Climate change will be the next disaster to be charged against Obama’s karmic debt as detractors seek a whipping boy for what amounts to societal excess. It’s never the fault of the public, the consumers, the masses. Wrongdoing falls to leaders who shepherd the undiscerning flock into mass markets and commercial media brain-washing to provide the only outcome that garners any consensus at all – profitability.
If you study the oil history of Louisiana, where Huey Long and Texaco teamed up to plunder the state’s oil reserves with giveaway corporate entitlements and graft, you may feel a tinge of resentment against Big Oil and the malfeasant officials who served it.
“Nobody ever lost a buck underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” sniped H. L. Menken, who would have laughed his head off witnessing public acquiescence and gullibility at the failures of government and business leadership on oil.
It’s easy to say the BP spill is Obama’s headache. That way, we can fill up our cars and trucks without the notion that, with every drop, we contribute to the Gulf disaster and to whatever hidden spills are blooming elsewhere and will into the future. It’s our spill, but like little children, we point to somebody else and say, “He did it!”
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