Some folks are growing impatient about the catastrophic BP oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and propose drastic action: use a nuclear bomb.
A Reuters story this week passes on such a suggestion from a Soviet physicist, Viktor Mikhailov, who counsels: “I don’t know what BP [British Petroleum] is waiting for, they are wasting their time. Only about 10 kilotons of nuclear explosion capacity and the problem is solved.”
Other new stories and op-eds have mulled this idea, which, as you might imagine, has some potential drawbacks, including unacceptable levels of radionuclides entering the environment. Apart from the nuclear option, former Pres. Bill Clinton has suggested a similar strategy, only using conventional munitions. Reuters reported that, in late June, Clinton told the Fortune/Time/CNN Global Forum in South Africa: “Unless we send the Navy down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of rock and debris, which may become necessary… unless we are going to do that, we are dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP.”
As the Jewish World publishes a “Living Green” special section this week, residents along the Gulf Coast are Living Brown, as the massive oil spill — more than a million gallons each day — generates tar balls and a slick polluting beaches and marshes.
Fisheries are ruined; birds, whales and dolphins are dead and dying across a huge area. In sum, the BP oil spill is now routinely referred to in the press as the largest environmental catastrophe in United States history.
Pres. Barack Obama extracted a concession from BP last month, in the form of a $20 billion escrow fund to compensate the victims of the oil spill. Perhaps some readers recall that news reports mentioned that the oil giant’s liability was capped at $75 million by U.S. law. Personally, I don’t recall ever contacting my congressional representatives and asking them to cap BP’s financial liability in the event of a catastrophic oil spill. Did any of you? Perhaps the idea to cap BP’s financial liability came from some among the 609 oil and gas industry lobbyists that labor on Capitol Hill. In 2010, the oil and gas lobbyists have spent more than $38 million to twist arms in Congress on behalf of their 150 clients, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
As we try to be environmentally responsible — and heed the Jewish sources, which command us to protect the natural world — Big Oil despoils the earth and pollutes our democracy by wielding huge amounts of cash to influence elected officials. Going back to the 1990 election cycle, oil and gas interests — both individuals and PACs — have contributed more than a quarter-billion dollars to political candidates. BP’s share of that number is more than $6 million (71 percent to Republicans and 29 percent to Democrats).
In the 2008 election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org), reports that Sen. Barack Obama received $71,051 from BP; Sen. John McCain got $36,649. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., whose state is reeling from the effects of the oil spill, received $16,200 in campaign contributions from BP.
Most AJW readers are no doubt aware that oil and gas interests hold inordinate sway at all levels of government, but the gross amount of money flowing to political campaigns and lobbying efforts likely eludes many.
“Oil and gas money always plays a prominent role in politics, because there is so much of it,” Daniel J. Weiss, an energy and climate expert at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told OpenSecrets.org. “Oil company lobbyists are trying to protect their record profits by opposing an end to industry tax breaks. They’re giving a lot of money to people who support those tax breaks.”
In a sense we are all culpable for the BP oil blowout — those of us who patronize gas pumps, and expect that prices should stay at some moderate level. Of course, in the political rhetoric of recent years we have been subjected to those loudly calling to “drill, baby, drill.” Since BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April, killing 11 platform workers and spilling the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez tanker of oil into the Gulf waters every week or two, the calls to drill in the ocean depths, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, drill now, drill everywhere, have become somewhat muted. No one seems to know how to stem the oil leak.
The Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, instructs Jews that even during a war against a city, “you must not destroy its trees.” We are not to waste or destroy the natural world. How do we get the word to BP and its enablers?
Mordecai Specktor / firstname.lastname@example.org
(American Jewish World, 7.9.10)