Great oil, great responsibility, great opportunity to regulate

It’s been well over a month since the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon, suffered a catastrophic explosion 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. The resulting oil spill has now caused one of the largest environmental disasters since the Exxon Valdez in 1989, and is estimated to surpass the severity of that disaster.

Since the beginning, BP has tried an array of techniques from clamping the leaky line shut, throwing a large box over the leak and doing a procedure cleverly named the “junk shot”. Everyday that passes, though, an additional 210,000 gallons spill into the gulf, with BP now taking stabs in the dark to solve the problem.

President Obama has assured the public that BP will pay for the disaster and the associated cleanup. Obama has also given BP notice to complete a viable solution soon, and sources close to him state he’s furious over the lack of results and may intervene soon.

Of course, this is all a delicate balancing act for the President. Too much government intervention will lead to cries of “socialism” from the right and too little will lead to criticism from the left.

One fact remains, though; Big Oil calls the shots and is not held accountable to anyone except shareholders. Reports have surfaced of inspectors who let oil company employees fill out inspection reports or let oil companies draft rules and regulations. As the saying goes, this is letting the fox guard the henhouse.

At this point, President Obama should use all tools necessary to stop the bleeding. Tourism and industry in the gulf are already crippled, and the environmental impacts may not be known for years to come. To quote recent radio ads, “Western Florida is now cheaper than ever.” As legitimate and paranoid concerns about oil contamination spread throughout the southeast, the valve of tourism that funds the entire region is shutting off.

Equally tragic, and little discussed, is the direct loss of human life that this deadly explosion left in its wake. 11 men were killed in the explosion, burned and drowned in a workplace accident in this little-regulated field.

In order to eliminate the risk of horrific explosions like this one, harsh action must be taken. The EPA should be given more authority to regulate drilling off shore. Also, companies should have proven methods and protocols in place to prevent these disasters, no matter how deep or how complicated the well is.

This, of course, is a Utopian idea, and probably won’t come close to fruition. There will be some political grandstanding on both sides and in five years, the general public will have forgotten about and be fixated on the next quick-hit story.

The one positive of this incident is it has opened a much-needed dialogue on the issue of oil and what its future, at least in this country, will be. Should we be looking for more viable fuel options, as oil will only continue to be a dying resource? Yes. Should we quit oil cold turkey? I do not think that’s logical option, either. However, a serious discussion must be waged over our energy future.

But this solution will not come in the coming months or even years. It may take decades, but this country has to wake up. Unfortunately, instead of this discussion being logical, it has become political. If you drive an alternative fueled car or favor more renewable energy resource, you are labeled as a tree hugger and a host of other names, many less PC than a moniker for nature lover. The narrative has now become “To be a True American, you’ve got to drive a car that gets 11 mpg and support ‘Drill, Baby, Drill.’”

At this juncture moving away from domestic oil is not feasible. But for politicians to respond that the only way to deal with this deadly, costly and un-ending crisis caused by deep-water drilling is to drill more, in deeper water, is insulting. It is insulting to the 11 rig operators that lost their lives, to the thousands of American citizens who will lose their livelihoods to the spill and to the billions of unknown environmental factors that will be impacted.