Monday, 3 May 2010

The BP Oil Rig Disaster

Like you I have been focussed on the BP (Beyond Pollution) oil rig disaster that recently claimed 11 lives.

It has been reported that the leaking pipe, one mile down is spewing out oil at the rate of 5,000 barrels, 210,000 gallons a day. A safety valve that was supposed to shut off the flow of oil at the seabed in case of such an accident failed to operate, and so there is no way to stop the leak. The oil well taps into one of the largest U.S. reserves, quite simply this is an unprecedented environmental disaster.

Hundreds of imperilled species in the Gulf will be harmed by the toxic oil, the full extent of the damage will not be known for years to come as the oil could pour out for three months, efforts to contain the pollution being largely ineffective. We are but spectators.

As difficult as it is to deal with an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is indescribably more difficult in the Arctic, but Obama has authorized Shell Oil to conduct exploration drilling this summer in the seas off Alaska, with the same technology that was used at the BP disaster.

Our society and its wealth is based on cheap oil, but as the more accessible sources of cheap oil run out so the price of oil goes up and it then becomes economically viable to drill and strip the less accessible areas in order to fuel societies addiction to it. Think of how a drug pusher gets clients hooked on heroin and then pushes the price up and you have a comparable analogy.

Is it worth it? The families of the 11 that died, and those along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida whose lives are going to be changed for years may well be asking themselves the same question.

Can we now put the sort of investment that is going into the clean-up operation into Solar Power? Safe, clean and cheap. We will have to make some adjustments to enable the technology to come into action, but compared to the adjustments the families of the 11 dead and those that are to be affected by the oil spill polution, these will be as nothing.

We can start the change while there is still time in order to scale down our reliance on oil, or we simply wait for reality that is to come to hit us.


homebrewlibrarian said...

Somehow, I don't think the clean up operation will be all that great. The clean up from the Exxon Valdez disaster got a portion of the surface oil but a great deal settled to the bottom and is probably now covered in silt. Someone told me that even now on some of those beaches, you need only dig very shallowly in the sand at the waters edge to find a layer of oil.

The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is far worse and larger. I have no idea what harm it will do along the hundreds of miles of shoreline to the living creatures and the people who live and make their livelihood there. But, sadly, I expect that it won't be taken that seriously and the ecosystems there will be changed dramatically for the worse for a very long time.

It will take more, much more than everyone reducing their driving about. Our world is literally soaked in oil - we wear it, eat it, move from place to place with it, etc. Those who profit off the results of all that oil are not going to willing make reductions that could reduce their profits. They will, as you point out, keep extracting it for as long as they can from less and less useful places and charge more and more for it.

For change to come, we need to change ourselves and the sooner the better. If we choose to ignore the signs and portents, we will be forced into convulsive change and that has the potential to be truly disastrous. I know of a number of people facing the change they know must be done with courage and dedication but for every one of them there are 200 (maybe even 2000) who continue to practice retail therapy.

I don't have a good answer mostly because each person has to come to the decision to change on their own. For those of us who practice voluntary reductions and simplicity, it may be that we lead by example. Who knows? Our neighbors may suddenly need to make changes and remember that we might be someone to ask about it. We should be gracious and giving whether we're looked on as crazy people or wise ones. But isn't that the second greatest commandment??

Kerri in AK (currently in the UK)

willow said...

We do need to think now about the way we live and the resources we are using. I agree with homerewlibrarian's comment that we should "be the change we wish to see". I do try to practise that but sometimes the global situation all seems just too much. As much as I try to live simply, growing some of our food, reducing car use, buying less etc etc in the whole scheme of things my efforts count for virtually nothing.

I try to live simply because I think it is the right thing to do but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problems we are facing.

Unfortunately I am not sure that even a disaster on this scale will make the decision makers alter their way of thinking.

dining room table said...

I think that there are really no permanent solutions for this matter. Pretty alarming since marine life is now in danger and as we all know many depend their everyday lives in the waters and the lives in it. Can we just manage the production that we have and stop asking for more so that no lives will be harmed?