I recently got into an argument with someone about who is most to blame for the Gulf oil catastrophe. Though she is what most conservatives would call a "bleeding-heart liberal," she curiously sided with the head of BP communications who infamously stated that all Americans are at fault since we all drive cars.
While I agree in theory, to pin the blame on the American people for what is arguably the worst environmental disaster in history is completely unfair to a population that has been victimized by a broken political system, a system that no longer looks out for the best interest of the public but rather for the quarterly profits of our nation's biggest polluters.
If you look around, there just aren't that many affordable "clean" vehicles to choose from. Fortunately 2010 is turning out to be a pivot point in the availability of clean diesel and electric plug-in vehicles, but up until now, it is safe to say the American people never really had a choice — save bicycling or taking the bus, which in many circumstances is just not an option (and if you think a Prius is all that great, read this).
Our government had the opportunity to regulate the auto industry to push its efficiency standards, and it failed. It also had the opportunity to regulate the oil extraction industry to make sure safeguards that would have prevented the BP blowout were in place, and it failed again.
The Gulf oil catastrophe was certainly the fault of a criminally negligent corporation seeking to top its record-breaking first quarter of untaxed, taxpayer-subsidized profits. Corporations can lose their soul and their morals when the free market gets the best of them. And that's why we need government ... to keep corporations in check when they get out of hand. Our government failed to do so on a scale of epic proportions, and therefore it carries (I think) the heaviest burden of blame.
So it's with extremely mixed feelings, that I present to you a new campaign from ClimateCulture called My Gulf Action. At any other time, I would be overjoyed by the innovative platform that allows individuals to pledge to reduce their fuel consumption and tallies the combined efforts of the entire community. But the notion that a person can somehow "offset" his share of the oil spilled in the Gulf is ill-conceived.
Even if every American stopped driving tomorrow and didn't use a single drop of oil or gasoline for the rest of the year, we would in no way make up for the full environmental, economic and human health impacts of the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon. What happened is a tragedy that our children's children will have to endure. While driving less aggressively is certainly a good idea, the 20 gallons of gas I'll save over the course of a year is literally a drop in a very, very deep barrel.