Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is it Obvious Yet? [re: Offshore Drilling]

Is it obvious yet that offshore oil drilling is a tremendously bad idea? In arguing against that opinion, one could cite the relatively good overall safety record of the offshore drilling industry (as Obama did prior to this accident), but to my mind the current catastrophe eliminates that as a cogent argument. One could cite our need for domestic oil as a necessary evil (so to speak), but that doesn't change my mind either. We could be on a different energy path, or numerous different paths. As the late genius Buckminster Fuller once said (perhaps not an exact quote), "The Sun [solar energy] should be our 'checking account'; oil should be our 'savings account'." in terms of "energy banking".

The current problem well is about 5,000 feet below the water's surface, and look at the difficulties that causes. Now consider this: some of these offshore wells are deeper than that---up to 9,000 feet below the surface. Imagine the trials and tribulations if one of those began discharging oil at the wellhead.

All of this reminds me of a larger issue. In the early '70s (almost forty years ago), this country started to plan seriously for the day when oil would no longer be such an important source of energy. It was the first modern-day Green Movement. Ten years after that, it was all but forgotten. Blame Reagan if you must, but the fact is that most everyone abandoned Green. The corporatists claimed that it was too expensive to switch to solar power, wind power, biomass power, geothermal power, hydropower, hydrogen power, fuel cells, etc. The Media joined in the chorus. Many fragments of Green Energy survive to this day, but there is no longer any comprehensive, dedicated, focused energy policy moving in a completely Green direction.

It takes about twenty-five years for a society to switch from one primary energy source to another. The Executive Branch Department of Energy was created under President Carter for the express purpose of getting this country off foreign oil. [It's fair to say: that was a failure.] Imagine if the Fed Government had continued to offer huge tax credits to corporations who developed affordable Green energy, and if they additionally would have given lucrative government transportation contracts to companies who developed (just as an example) a safe, affordable hydrogen-powered vehicle. Imagine, too, that the Feds offered other incentives as well. The chances are good that we would now be divested of our oil addiction.

None of that happened. I think it's fair to say that the probability is high that Big Oil lobbying played a significant role in our continuing addiction to petroleum. The Republicans and Democrats in office in DC love Oil money... and Banking money, and Defense Industry money, and Big Pharma money, and Airline money, and Big Coal money, and on & on. After all, election campaigns are expensive. :)

We need an energy policy with the stated goal of getting us off oil, and we need to stick to that policy.

[I, having taught Biology, Ecology, and Environmental Science for many years, fully admit to a bias regarding this subject.]

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