Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oily Political Malaise

The president gave a speech last night, and, well...I didn't even watch it. Which is rather unusual for me, as I'm usually a political junkie. But I've been suffering a political malaise lately. My outrage at the Shrub/Cheney administration at least generated blogging fodder. Whereas the ongoing mediocrity of the Obama administration has left me feeling "aw, fuck it".
I thought about watching Obama's speech, but I realized that it really didn't matter. Nothing that Obama could say would have the slightest impact on the Gulf disaster. Instead, it was purely political theater designed to project an "image" of presidential leadership. Which really doesn't matter. Obama's critics will criticize him no matter what he says or does, the pundits will pontificate pointlessly, and all us progressives will continue to be disappointed. It's a rather dismal situation.

I've avoided commenting on the BP disaster for a variety of reasons: it's too horrific, nothing I have to say (I'm no expert on deepwater drilling) is really relevant, and everybody else on the internet has already said anything and everything that could possibly be said, and more.
The finger-pointing is easy. We know that the oil industry owned the regulators, that Cheney destroyed any government capacity for oversight, the MMS was completely corrupted, and that BP cut so many corners that Deepwater Horizon was known as a "nightmare" rig. There should (and hopefully will be) multiple criminal charges in the wake of this disaster.
But here's the really frustrating part: no one knows how to fix it. BP had no plan for the "what if" the rig blew. The government (coast guard, navy, or FEMA) has no equipment to cap the spill, and far too little capability to recover spilled oil. Once the spill began, all the parties involved realized that they had failed to plan, and that nobody knew how to stop a deepwater spill. The various attempts to cap the well were doomed to fail, and the only realistic plan to drill relief wells will take months to complete. There are no better answers.
So we're left to watch helplessly as America's greatest environmental disaster unfolds. Marine life will be decimated despite our best efforts to recover as many creatures as we can; we'll only be able to save a small fraction. Beaches, marshes, and wetlands will be polluted for decades, possibly centuries, as the booms and cleanups are inadequate to address thousands of miles of coastline. The combination of the volume of the spill and the deep ocean currents will result in the devastation being so widespread that our grandchildren will still be seeing the impact of this spill.
In short, it's easy do scream "do something"; it's much more difficult to actually do something specific.

(old cartoon, but I like the point)
If there can be anything positive to come out of this disaster, it could be a greater impetus toward renewable energy. America has been talking about the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the need for alternative energy since the Carter administration, but almost nothing has been actually done. A few token wind plants here, an electric car there, some solar panels in a few places. With a total value of a bare teaspoon in the ocean of oil.
Alternative energy technologies are being invented and improved every day. Unfortunately, most of these technology developments are happening in other countries. Instead of investing in energy technology, we continue to send over a billion dollars a day overseas for oil. And expand domestic and offshore (a moratorium is not a halt) drilling (I've always felt that Cheney saw the Iraq war as a way to expand American oil reserves), and coal mining in order to maintain the status quo. We blithely continue driving gas guzzlers, and resist even modest increases in fuel economy standards. Instead of investing in a sustainable future, we debate whether global warming is real or a hoax (it's real). We've wasted decades hiding our heads in the sand.
So perhaps this environmental disaster will wake up America to the need to change our unsustainable behavior. Obama certainly talked about a "clean energy future" again in this latest speech. But I'll remain cynical until I see some action.
And that's depressing.

1 comment:

nunya said...

One word. Netflix. Cheap entertainment and escape. Escape with no advertising, woot. I understand political malaise.