Editorial: We need to learn from Gulf oil spill

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Some lessons can be learned from the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that is spilling 210,000 gallons of oil every day and could be the biggest environmental disaster in a generation.

It’s clear that no matter what safety procedures are in place for offshore oil drilling, no system is foolproof. The “drill, baby, drill” crowd’s rhetoric promised cheap oil if the federal government would just open every possible area to drilling.

That notion ought to be discarded, and even President Barack Obama’s proposal to allow a modest amount of new drilling needs a thorough review in light of this accident.

At the same time, environmentalists will argue that this bolsters their case for emphasizing renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy. As one wry Twitter user wrote, “Huge air spill at massive wind farm. No threats found. Local residents report ‘nice breeze.’”

BP and possibly Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig BP was leasing that exploded and collapsed, probably will spend hundreds of millions cleaning up the oil spill and compensating victims. Wouldn’t that money, which will come from their profits, have been better spent making progress on renewable energy?

But kicking America’s oil addiction won’t be like quitting smoking. We can’t quit cold turkey. With our suburban lifestyles, dependence on automobiles and generally poor system of public transportation, this country will need oil for decades to come.

In the meantime, there are a few things we do know:

* Taxpayers should not have to spend a dollar cleaning up the mess made by BP and Transocean. The two also should fairly compensate fisherman and others who have been and will be hurt by this calamity.

* A full environmental assessment needs to be made of the dispersement chemicals being used to break up the slick and force the oil to the bottom of the ocean. No one except for the manufacturer is completely sure what is in the dispersement chemicals being used or how they affect marine life. That information, which the chemical company considers proprietary, ought to be turned over to government scientists who agree to keep it confidential while they determine the chemicals’ effect.

* A thorough investigation needs to be done of the accident’s cause and why the safety procedures, mainly the automatic shutoff valve, didn’t work. Steps need to be taken, including additional regulation by the government if necessary, to make sure the same things don’t happen again.

State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill.