Our Part in the Mess
May 3, 2010 9:15 AM
As I write this a destroyed off shore oil well off the coast of Louisiana is spewing 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil slick is headed for the coastal wetlands where, if it continues unabated, it could have disastrous consequences for the fishing industry and for other ecosystems and wildlife. It could be an environmental and economic disaster of historic proportions in a part of our country that can least afford it.
Some say it should force us to rethink the idea of expanding drilling off the U.S. coasts, and we should. But that's not enough. If all we do is refuse to allow drilling around U.S. shores without reducing our oil habit, we'll simply be pushing the problems and the risks on others. In fact, an interesting column in Sunday's New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/opinion/02margonelli.html) points out that Nigeria has experienced spills equal to that of the Exxon Valdez every year since 1969.
The real answer is to break our petroleum addiction. That's one important reason that transportation initiatives like high speed rail, the regional transit authority and building a friendlier and safer environment for bike-commuting are so important. And we need the land use policies to go with those initiatives. So efforts to build up the city and to make edge developments as dense as possible, like the Northeast Neighborhoods, are very important.
There's no question that British Petroleum should be held to account for the mess they've made in the Gulf. But to the extent that they're there to provide for the oil habit that we all share as Americans, then it's up to us to make sure it doesn't happen again by dramatically reducing our consumption.