Friday, June 4, 2010

The BP Oil Spill and Us by Larry Stopper

A little less than two years ago I spoke rather angrily from atop the WMRA Civic Soapbox about the absurdity of the chant being used at McCain presidential rallies – drill baby drill. Now we’re confronted with the effects of this movement to push the country into greater and greater efforts to find fossil fuel resources available within our own boundaries. To all who love wildlife and treasure the Gulf of Mexico as more than just an energy source, the current gusher flooding the ocean and the costal marshes with oil is an overwhelming tragedy.

Who is to blame for this unbelievable mess? The courts will certainly spend years sorting it out, but for me, it’s not entirely the corporations who made this mess. Yes BP and Transocean were incredibly careless and entirely focused on the bottom line. Profits are what drive corporation’s not environmental protection. It is the federal and state government’s job to protect the environment, especially many miles off shore.

For years, small government advocates have decried regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department as impediments to business. The longer time went on without a major oil spill, the louder the cries became to get government off the backs of our great companies and let them produce. But it only takes one mistake and now we have it. While we don’t have a definitive answer, it looks like the third largest oil spill since the world began using petroleum as a fuel.

So where are the small government advocates and the drill baby drill crowd now? Just listen to Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, one of the leading voices in the small government movement and you will hear endless cries for federal government help. It seems you can have it both ways according to Governor Jindal. Complain about federal interference when you want and demand help at other times. Funny, but we haven’t heard much from Sara Palin lately on this spill. She must be fishing in the clean waters of Alaska right now.

But I’m taking easy potshots at politicians when I really believe the ones to blame for this mess are each and every one of us that has yet to take the steps in our lives to substantially lower our consumption of energy. We are currently 5% of the world’s population yet we consume 24% of the world’s energy. This is unsustainable and cannot continue. We cannot wait for our political leaders to come up with new energy policies, some of which are based on fantasies like clean coal. We cannot sit around and hope that a big technological breakthrough will magically make it so we do not have to change our lifestyles to accommodate the reality that we are changing our planet’s climate. We must all take real steps in our lives to lower our energy consumption and do it soon.

The enormous oil spill in the gulf is certainly a wakeup call, but wake up calls are only worth something if we wake up and don’t just push the snooze button. Glaciers are melting, Artic sea ice is retreating, and ocean temperatures are rising. These are facts, not guesses. We may live in Virginia, but the mess in the gulf is our mess too. It is the legacy we are passing on to our children and grand children. We should be ashamed and until we make serious changes in the way we consume energy, blaming it all on BP is just the easy way out.

                                               ---Larry Stopper lives in Nelson County


  1. I don't think Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is ENDLESSLY calling for government intervention. He has been calling for the government to allow better clean up techniques. A fear I have from this oil spill is that the drill baby drill folks will say that lots of mistakes were made by the government and this is why the oil spill became a catastrophic problem. People want to live lavish lifestyles. This is the major problem.

    We built an oasis in and around Las Vegas, Nevada that is an environmental disaster. People are complaining about the economy there. That is the number one concern. Not the environment. They want to be able to bulldoze mountains away to build hotels, nightclubs, airports, hospitals, health centers, dams, shopping malls, wind turbines, solar panels, etc. Here in the Shenandoah Valley we want the same and are bulldozing the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley away.

    We cannot grow mountains back. The Shenandoah Valley (similarly, for many places on the Earth) will never again be the beautiful place it was 30 years ago. How many mountains have been destroyed to put up all the floating trash in our atmosphere? What impact does this have on our weather?

    Unless we learn to live simpler, be happier living in harmony with nature and get along we will continue to destroy the Earth which is probably the largest impact on our Earth.

    Regarding transportation, the best a person can do to help save the Earth is to walk. If you drive a car, take a bus, take a train, fly in a plane, pedal a bicycle, etc. then you are causing someone to mine our Earth to build that object. Regarding communication, the best a person can do to help save the Earth is to talk. If you use phones, computers, radios, TVs, etc. then you are causing someone to mine our Earth to build that object. Regarding marketing, the best one can do is buy products locally that are not packaged otherwise someone had to transport the product or someone had to make the package.

    As long as we continue to bulldoze, mine and drill into the Earth we will have problems with weather, air pollution and stress on humans, plants, and animals.

    We can have viable economies without destroying our Earth. We have to become more natural and less materialistic.

  2. Thank you Larry Stopper for finally saying what needed to be said! Listened this morning and really enjoyed and agree with your comments. (Coming from Nelson County no less).
    One minute conservatives are calling for smaller government with less spending... privatize everything! A few days after the oil spill in the Gulf everyone sounds like a socialist!