I remember watching Bush in Jackson Square after Katrina and thinking it was so, so very quiet. I’d never seen the city so eerily quiet. It scared me and broke my heart. When the President gave his speech, his pledge, his promise to the people of this region and to America, I believed him. I really did. I thought that surely Katrina was bigger than politics, bigger than profiteering, bigger than all petty and personal concerns.
All I can take away from that now is to know that the oil spill IS bigger than all those things, but we are not. We continue to be petty, political and profit-driven and it will cost us all. The 1000 gallons, I mean 5000 gallons, I mean 200,000, I mean 210,000 gallons per day (and clearly still counting) spilling into the Gulf will affect our entire nation for decades to come. Those at the top will busy themselves with suing each other to not pay those who have lost their livelihood, property and culture. The latest “plan” to stop the gushing? It’s called a “Junk Shot.” They’re going to shoot tire shards and golf balls at the opening then put concrete over it. Yeah, okay. Sounds like something Wiley Coyote would come up with right before being flattened by an anvil. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic and true.
The containment dome idea didn’t work because it got ice particles and became buoyant. The new idea? Use a smaller one. If I put a spoon into freezing water and it froze, I wouldn’t go looking for a smaller spoon. But, hey, I’m no expert.
Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, now says that MMS (Minerals Management Service), the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, will be split to separate the collection of oil royalties from safety inspection duties. What? We have a federal agency whose job is to collect cash and inspect for safety? Am I the only one who’s shocked? We would never let a restaurant inspector collect that restaurant’s taxes, much less profits. It would look too much like a bribe, feel too much like a conflict of interest.
BP, who earlier took “full responsibility,” now says the safety device was made by another company and that company says Halliburton poured the faulty concrete and Halliburton says they were only fulfilling BP’s plans. Meanwhile, in Port Fourchon, National Guardsman work alongside prisoners in T-shirts reading, “Inmate Labor.” Seems the good people of Port Fourchon understand what the oil guys don’t – we all need to come together and stop the flow of oil reaching our shores.
I remember wanting to drive SO much when I was a teen. But, I had to prove some things first. I took courses, passed tests and paid for insurance. My mother was concerned for me learning behind the wheel, so I wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio or have friends in the car for the first few months so that I wouldn’t be a distracted driver. Once I proved I could be an attentive driver and that I understood what was at stake, human lives including my own, then I was given the privilege of driving as I chose – but I still had to buy my own car. If I, as a private citizen, had wanted to drill in my own yard, I assumed that I would have to prove that I was responsible enough to do that – pass courses and tests, get insurance and show that I understood what was at stake – human lives. Drilling is a privilege, not a right.
Meantime, dead dolphins and sea turtles are washing up on shore and the officials are “looking into” whether or not it’s related to the spill. Really? Can we not find a better job for the people deciding if the animals died from oil? How about working alongside prisoners and National Guardsmen? Maybe we should shave the heads of all of the decision makers and paper signers from BP, Halliburton, Transocean and the MMS and use their hair to fill pantyhose boons. If I sound like I’m ranting, maybe it’s because hairdressers and llama owners seem to be doing more to keep the spill at bay than that list of people who’ve profited from this oil. If I were the Obamas, I’d get to shaving just to show my solidarity. Except, BP was Obama’s largest campaign contributor. Oh, and the “dispersant chemical” they were dumping (with no testing) – word on the street is that it’s Dawn liquid detergent. My mother used to put detergent on a sponge and use it on her plants – to kill the bugs, the animals, the living things. You can see why someone breathing oily air in a city running out of shrimp might not hold out much optimism that anyone’s actually doing anything to stop the oil.
It’s not like we didn’t know this could happen. I found 27 oil spills from various reasons in just the last 10 years. As I said before, cementing was a factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts in the last 14 years. Um, doesn’t that mean we’ve had 39 well blowouts in the last 14 years? And this isn’t business as usual. Many other countries drill, but they spring for the extra safety measure that could have prevented this. It’s mandatory that you prove you can fix a screw-up before you can drill. Makes sense to me. And the reason our oil companies joined forces to fight regulations? It would be too costly. The safety valve required in other countries cost $500,000. Again, I’m no accountant, but…
I encourage you to take a look at how common oil spills are and ask yourself whether it was too costly to require companies that show profits in the multiple billions every quarter to show that they are responsible enough to operate a drill.
My mother would have never given me the keys to a car I couldn’t prove I could drive safely. The state DMV required I prove it, too. My insurance company – ditto. And, just in case I make an error, we are all required by law to wear safety belts.
To be clear – I drive a car. I fuel it with gasoline. But, I have always believed it’s democratically dangerous to rely on foreign oil. I’m careful who I do business with and give power to in my life. And, since sitting in my first gas crunch line in the 70’s as a small child, I’ve known we needed to find alternative fuel and conserve our non-renewable resources. I drive less than 4,000 miles a year, opting to carpool or walk as often as possible and to consolidate errands and other running around. I left a city that asks, “What do you drive?” and moved to one that asks, “Do you have wheels?” Many here bicycle or take public transport in the form of streetcars and busses. Heck, one of the reasons so many folks were trapped here for Katrina was because many people here don’t own a car.
We, as a nation, have to question what we care about. The future is now. We can’t stop earthquakes or tsunamis or volcanos erupting, but we can require more of our corporations, our government and ourselves. And I, for one, will continue to pray someone comes up with something soon to stop this nightmare so we can begin the nightmare of living with what we’ve done.