Despite trying to earn my environmentalist stripes, I admit to not following the events of the coast of Louisiana too closely. It is not because I don’t think it is important, but more because I think its potential importance is largely being missed, certainly by the traditional media.
Firstly, it is not the worst oil-related disaster, whilst it has apparently leaked about twice the amount of oil as the Exxon Valdez oil spill which I remember watching news coverage of as a teenager, (oh for the days of John Craven’s newsround) the Exxon Valdez is still considered a relatively small oil spill. However, from an ecological point of view any spill has to be a potential disaster. Not only is there the problem of the oil to deal with, and the area over which the aforementioned dealing has to happen, there is also the effect of the burning of the oil and the residuals from the dispersants to deal with. All in all I am sure that most people (even the manufacturers of the dispersants) would agree, it is not a good thing.
There is a lot of blame being levelled at BP, and, rightly so. It would appear that they did not include such an incident in their risk planning – but then, with the deafening silence from the other oil companies, other than we will help if we can and we should make sure this never happens again, one can assume that it was not in the risk planning of any of the oil companies. It is just a stroke of luck for them that it happened to BP first.
A lot of the adverse publicity seems to be emanating from the American government – but they do not appear to have any better ideas either, and, I assume that they have profited from the jobs and licenses that result from the deep sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?
My main point, which I am eventually getting to, is that if we are blaming BP for drilling, and we are blaming the American government for its inaction (which apparently some Americans are), then why are we not blaming ourselves? We bitch and moan about the price of petrol and the excessive profits that the oil companies make, but we can do something about it. We can stop buying as much fuel, we can stop insisting that our pensions are worth more every year, we can demand that we pay more for our fuel and that some of the revenue is used to undertake deep sea research to stop disasters on this scale occurring. But we won’t, we will carry on regardless, watch the pictures on the TV and then hop in the car to run an errand.
Perhaps it is time the true cost of oil related products was revealed, and we started to think about whether we think the environmental devastation that comes with any sort of extraction of natural resources is a price worth paying.