New estimates are the Gulf Oil Spill is leaking at least 10 times the amount of oil as previous estimates of 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons, or 795,000 liters) a day, meaning the ongoing spill already far exceeds the Exxon Valdez accident. The gulf oil leaks could gush for years, further fouling the Gulf, Mexican and Atlantic Coasts. The spill threatens fragile ecosystems and is severely impacting the local economy, particularly fishing. It is clear key safety features at tens of thousands of U.S. offshore rigs are barely regulated.
BP has shown it lacks the necessary capacity to handle the spill, as capping the leak has taken too long, and the cleanup will be massive. Given the extent of the ongoing spill, and the potential for the spill to spread more widely during the hurricane season, the federal government must immediately nationalize the spill response and take the lead in capping the leak and containing the spill. BP and the oil industry can still help and pay for the full response including whatever restoration is possible in the long-run.
Despite President Obama’s recent sharpening of populist rhetoric against oil companies, the U.S. government led by President Obama has until now failed to act aggressively. The full might of the U.S. government must be brought to bear to stop the leak, contain the spill, and clean coasts. If we bailed out the banks, car companies and others; clearly it is worth a billion or ten to hold onto a Gulf ecosystem that is as minimally ravaged as possible.
The Gulf Oil Spill is a clarion call to implement comprehensive climate and energy policies that address U.S. oil addiction. The situation also clearly demonstrates the need to stop oil exploration and production in all environmentally sensitive areas – offshore and in other intact ecosystems such as the Arctic and rainforests. It is estimated that that expanded offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions would provide less than a two-month supply of fuel. Instituting stronger fuel economy standards and support for expanding transportation choices would save many times this amount.
The first step is to ensure offshore drilling does not accelerate. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has introduced legislation to repeal Obama's executive order to expand offshore drilling. West Coast lawmakers announced a proposed ban on offshore drilling along their states' coastlines. Yet President Obama continues to promote offshore drilling, including within the climate bill. This must not stand. President Obama must be beseeched upon to change his policy in regard to offshore drilling.
Oil companies in America have tapped the easy oil and are now pushing the limits and increasing the risk by heading to the deep water of the gulf and the remote and unforgiving Arctic. Shell Oil's plans to drill exploratory wells off Alaska's shore in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas this summer. The Arctic has a much more fragile ecology than the Gulf, and lack of infrastructure to deal with a similar spill. President Obama must be called upon to cancel Shell’s permission to drill in the Arctic.
Obama and his top deputies have yet to talk about reducing the nation's dependence on fossil fuels in connection with the oil spill. The underlying cause of this disaster is our dangerous and dirty addiction to oil as well as Big Oil's slippery influence on politics, which is undermining our nation's transition to a future of clean energy. Big Oil and King Coal assert tremendous power in Washington, operating unchecked and unregulated.
This oil addiction is killing American and global ecology. Will virtually every remaining intact ecosystem be razed to access every last bit of oil before we transition to lower energy use, low carbon economy and renewable energy? What are we going to eat and drink when the oil industry has finished production and destroyed and diminished our ecosystems including forests, water and atmosphere? To a large extent both climate change and rainforest destruction are the story of oil. Ending this sad state of being is the most profound task of our age.
An international wake-up call must be delivered to both the administration and Congress, to focus more effort upon reducing the demand for oil. The risks and costs of offshore oil exploration far outweigh their benefits, and the U.S. would be better off focusing upon promoting alternative energy sources. BP, and their contractors, Transocean and Halliburton, must be held accountable for every mistake that has led to this disaster, and bear the full costs of cleanup.
Let President Obama know oil drilling is not safe anywhere, anytime when properly accounting for its full life-cycle of production, transportation, sale, consumption and disposal. Further, demand a ban on offshore drilling, and that current catastrophe prone oil rigs are shut down. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Mineral Management Service must be fully investigated. And finally, oil drilling projects must be stopped in Alaska and the world’s rainforests, and oil drilling permits revoked in ecologically sensitive areas.
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