The Signs Before the Warning Signs

It is interesting that there have been over 30,000 oil drills in the Gulf over the past 40 years, and, with one exception, nothing even close to this has happened (The Ixtoc spill in 1979 went on for 10 months!). There are plenty of responsible companies out there (though, we need tougher regulations). Somehow BP was given the green light to drill.

Someone knew about BP’s record and allowed our government to hand them a permit to drill in the Gulf (Secretary Salazar?). As such, Mineral Management Service (or some other part of the government) also has to take some of the blame. (On May 27th, Elizabeth Birnbaum, the director of the Minerals Management Service agency that oversees drilling operations, was fired, the AP reports; but I am not sure this fixes the systemic issues behind the spill.) It is easy to get stuck on the obvious partisan politics of the situation, such as the Republican convention theme in 2008 being “drill, baby, drill” (which, of course, meant, “drill offshore now.”) But we need to go beyond this line of thinking. Perhaps someone needs to ask what BP received on its investment when it spent $16.5 million on lobbying last year. And we should take a look at the “revolving door” that goes on between regulators and the regulated. What do we expect when we let the oil industry write the safety & environmental regulations for themselves? Repeat lawbreakers like BP should be denied access to leases, permits to drill, and possibly even revoking their corporate charter. The repeated deaths of workers and devastating environmental damage (that also harms the economy!) needs to be prosecuted and prevented from inflicting additional damage.

President George H.W. Bush had it right when he signed an executive order in 1990 that banned offshore drilling. But in the Summer of 2008, when oil prices were skyrocketing, someone issued an executive order to remove the ban on offshore drilling. You guessed it…It was George jr. See his video below.

Obama rejected offshore drilling during his 2008 campaign, but then gave in to it approval earlier this year.

Solutions? Offshore drilling needs to be banned, again. The oil industry needs tighter regulations. We need new forms of energy that are renewable, sustainable, and affordable.  And at the core of all of this, our capitalist system needs reforming in a way that corporate executives are not driven solely by shareholder value, but also by the safety of people, lands, and resources that have been entrusted to them. This is the only sustainable solution to this and so many other problems in our society.

For more information about the BP oil spill click herehere,  here, here, or take action here.