Obama is “furious” at them, James Cameron calls them “morons” and hundreds of thousands of Americans are now rallying against the BP executives who made the worst oil spill in U.S. history possible. But amidst the angry din of anti-BP protests, a quiet, thoughtful movement is emerging that sees the Gulf oil spill in a broader context.
Despite its innocuous simplicity, Hands Across the Sand, may turn out to be the most potent environmental movement in the U.S. — and Lord knows we need one. As Roland Martin of CNN so poignantly expressed it, the big environmental nonprofits have been asleep at the wheel:
The Left's organizations need to decide what matters: their principles or their politics ... their convictions or chicken dinners in the White House.
I agree, it is tacky to use a tragedy to make a point, especially when so many lives will be affected for decades to come, but in this case their cautious respect is upstaging a profound duty to the American people — to point out why this tragedy occurred in the first place.
Yes, BP has created a disaster of monumental proportions. And yes, government officials charged with regulating them have failed over and over again to do so. But the real problem here is actually much greater …
We are running out of oil.
I want to point out that, contrary to popular opinion, I am not a Peak Oil theorist. I believe there is plenty more oil laying deep in the hidden recesses of the Earth's crust. The problem is getting it.
What no one is asking is this — why was BP drilling through 12,000 feet of rock in 5,000 of water ... because it was cost-effective?
Clearly not, otherwise BP would not have skimped on all the expensive safeguards needed to operate safely at those depths. The truth is that getting deep oil, is very expensive and we may in fact be getting to a point of diminishing returns — when the risk and expense of extracting fossil fuels may no longer be justifiable, even by the soulless standards of a corporation like BP.
Some say we have 40 more years of easily extractible oil. Others say it is less than 20. In any case, the BP disaster has pointed out a sobering truth. With diminishing supplies of crude, oil extraction in the 21st century has become a dangerous enterprise.
Putting aside the catastrophic climatological impacts of actually consuming 40 more years of oil, the now inevitable collapse of one of the world’s largest fisheries and the destruction of an entire tourism industry in the Gulf makes it clear that offshore oil drilling is too risky to continue. The Deepwater Horizon was only one of hundreds of oil spills last year. Imagine if one or two more had gone the way of Deepwater.
We need to build up the alternatives now, before it is too late. So why aren’t all the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are supposed to be advocating for clean energy alternatives jumping up and down, yelling for a stronger clean energy bill? Well mainly, I think, it’s just hard to say anything right now without sounding opportunistic. No one likes having mud (especially oily mud) rubbed in his face.
That’s why I love the Hands Across the Sand concept so much. It says it, without saying it. On June 26, the poetic image of thousands of Americans holding hands will create a protective “barrier” around our beloved oceans. Like an embrace, it speaks to the heart, not just the mind.
It says simply that our environment is too valuable to destroy in the pursuit of a few years of "cheap" oil. And until we can be assured that another disaster like the Gulf oil spill will never happen again, we must put a moratorium on offshore drilling.