Energy Ink

Lessons pulled from the Deepwater Horizon spill

Some say it's the Second Coming; others are less convinced

Guest Post

May 04, 2010

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There is no shortage of opinion about the disasterous oil spill washing up on the shores of four Gulf states floating around on the Internet. Some say the spill is precisely the jolt the faltering ideals of environmentalism needed. Here’s Paul Krugman over at the Guardian:

…The gulf blowout is a pointed reminder that the environment won’t take care of itself, that unless carefully watched and regulated, modern technology and industry can all too easily inflict horrific damage on the planet.

Armchair pundits are spinning a different story. Economist Jeff Rubin (he of Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller fame) says the gulf blowout isn’t about a technological glitch or lax safety rules. It is, rather, about scarcity, our unyielding addiction to fossil fuels and the lengths (or depths) we will go to to feed our appetites. Here he is in the Globe and Mail:

If you’re wondering why we’re risking catastrophic environmental consequences by drilling wells miles below the ocean floor, the answer is simple enough. It’s the same answer to the question of why we’re pouring billions of dollars into the tar sands. It’s all that’s left.

A level-headed analysis prevails at the NY Times care of writers John Broder and Tom Zeller Jr.

…The Deepwater Horizon blowout is not unprecedented, nor is it yet among the worst oil accidents in history. And its ultimate impact will depend on a long list of interlinked variables, including the weather, ocean currents, the properties of the oil involved and the success or failure of the frantic efforts to stanch the flow and remediate its effects. As one expert put it, this is the first inning of a nine-inning game. No one knows the final score.

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