Friday, April 30, 2010

Spill Baby, Spill

The hydrogen powered Honda FCX Clarity has a range of 300 miles between fill ups. Reviews of the car have been gushing with positive comments such as “the holy grail of fuel efficiency.” Burning hydrogen does not result in climate destabilization. In fact, what comes out of the Honda tailpipe is just water. Moreover, the technology to generate hydrogen at home, from water, exists – and is getting even cheaper.

The technology exists, right now, for us to drive competent clean cars on fuel we could generate ourselves from renewable sources.

But the corporatist mantra has been “Drill Baby, Drill.”

And of course, the consequences are quite predictable.

We knew there would be accidents. There have been many accidents before. Pollution is just a fact of life with fossil fuels. Nobody should be surprised. And nobody should be surprised that BP, the operator of the sunken oil rig that now threatens to spill onto the shores of Louisiana; opposed stricter safety rules for offshore drilling.

A recent study of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska found that the oil left after the clean up attempts has not dispersed as hoped. 26,000 gallons of oil has remained in the soil along the coastline of Alaska. The region's fishery is still being impacted over two decades later. (The spill itself immediately killed up to 250,000 sea birds, 2,800 otters, 300 seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas.)

And the coast of Louisiana is likely next.

As a society, these are the choices we've made. As individuals, these are the choices that have been made for us.


The answer is simple.

To sustain profits for unsustainable industries.

The fossil fuel industries are huge – some of the biggest industries in the world. And they have no desire to just stand back and let better technology take their place. There's just too much money to drain from us, their “addicted to oil” consumers.

BP has spent piles of money trying to convince us that BP stands for “Beyond Petroleum.” But if you remember their ads, BP always stressed that we keep using petroleum. This is known as greenwashing. Sometimes companies spend more on greenwash advertising than they've invested on their actual renewable efforts. And, as might be expected; renewables are just a small fraction of BP's total portfolio.

Oh, and one more non-surprise; a recent Government Accountability Office report has claimed that the Alaska regional office of the Minerals Management Service within the Department of Interior failed to follow internal policy and hid from employees industry-generated reports examining the environmental impacts of more drilling. That's right, our government is in on it to.

This is just a different version of “too big to fail.” The established industry has so much money and power that they can suppress better ways of doing things.

How does an established, “successful,” entrenched industry stay on top while maximizing profits? Not by innovating. That's too expensive and risky. It's more profitable to stifle innovation that might upset their present cash flow. And how do they pull this off? The established industry gains unfair advantages (such as subsidies) to remain competitive. The established industry manipulates information about the disadvantages of their products (such as the 20 years of denial misinformation generated about climate change). And the established industry cons you and me (with expensive ads) into believing that they have our best interests at heart... Yeah, right...

They want us to be addicted to oil. Addicts are the best customers. We'll pay any price. We'll put up with them poisoning us. And we'll believe anything they tell us to get another fix.

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