Sunday, June 6, 2010

Oil Spill: A Collective Responsibility

Now that the Deepwater Horizon has shown us just how bad an oil spill can be, people are looking to blame someone for the fiasco. Understandable but unproductive.

"Drill Baby Drill" was a popular slogan in the 2008 Presidential race and reemerged as a theme of the winning candidate in the 2009 Virginia gubernatorial campaign who proposed to fund needed transportation improvements with revenue sharing (that does not exist) from future wells (not yet discovered).

As an environmental lobbyist opposing state resolutions on oil drilling during the 2010 Virginia General Assembly, I testified before legislators fighting to embrace the Governor's irresponsible view that future drilling would solve Virginia's financial problems and bring economic prosperity.

All this was in the face of facts that only a small amount of oil is likely to exist off Virginia's coast (6 days at current rates of consumption). And, thus far, there is NO revenue sharing for any states beyond the Gulf Coast.

Moreover, as reiterated a couple of weeks ago, the Department of Defense continues to oppose the establishment of Virginia off shore oil drillling in the midst of naval and NASA operational areas. Military operations in Hampton Roads represent existing economic activity in the Commonwealth.

The mood had definitely been pro-oil drilling in this state. Nationally, Senator John Kerry -- long a staunch environmental supporter, had agreed to drilling in order to attract his colleague, Sen. Lindsay Graham to co-sponsor Climate Change legislation (though the senator has now backed out of this co-sponsorship).

The country has been in a "why not drill?" mood. Now that the spill has occurred, Americans need to examine their attitudes that supported this movement for "drill now" as well as the motives and mistakes of BP, Halliburton and other contractors involved with Deep Water Horizon. My point is not to exonerate corporate malfeasance but instead to be more productive about our collective responsibility.

We are a nation addicted to oil (and indeed to fossil fuels). We're looking for a new supplier (hey, let's try the Atlantic) rather than looking to break the addiction. The President understands that we need to move toward a new energy future. But even he still emphasizes the need for fossil fuels during the "transition period." But when would the transition end?

What about focusing more on conservation and energy efficiency? Promoting transit more than new roads? Building cars that will get more miles per gallon?

At the very least, Deepwater Horizon should get a dialogue going on these issues. Sphere: Related Content

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