Thinking ahead on the oil spill
New America's Lisa Margonelli has a great piece in the New York Times thinking ahead to the likely consequences of the likely consequences of the oil spill. The obvious next step, she says, is a moratorium on offshore drilling. But that'll only mean a moratorium on American offshore drilling. And that'll push production to places with much worse safety records:
All oil comes from someone’s backyard, and when we don’t reduce the amount of oil we consume, and refuse to drill at home, we end up getting people to drill for us in Kazakhstan, Angola and Nigeria — places without America’s strong environmental safeguards or the resources to enforce them.
Kazakhstan, for one, had no comprehensive environmental laws until 2007, and Nigeria has suffered spills equivalent to that of the Exxon Valdez every year since 1969. (As of last year, Nigeria had 2,000 active spills.) Since the Santa Barbara spill of 1969, and the more than 40 Earth Days that have followed, Americans have increased by two-thirds the amount of petroleum we consume in our cars, while nearly quadrupling the quantity we import. Effectively, we’ve been importing oil and exporting spills to villages and waterways all over the world.
And keep in mind that this is a very small disaster in comparison to the devastation that could follow a 5 degree jump in global temperatures, and yet it's things like offshore drilling -- that is to say, increased access to and consumption of fossil fuels -- that's hastening radical climate change. The dangers of offshore drilling didn't seem real until they became real, and now we're talking moratorium. But if we wait for climate change to really get going before we do something about it, it'll be far beyond the point when we can stop it just by pricing carbon. It's like one of those horror movie taglines: If you can see him, it's already too late.
Photo credit: By Carlos Barria/Reuters
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