Year 2, Month 10, Day 16: Kill ’em All and Let Dick Cheney Sort ’em Out.

Oh, great. Read it in The Independent (UK) and weep:

BP is making contingency plans to fight the largest oil spill in history, as it prepares to drill more than 4,000 feet down in the Atlantic in wildlife-rich British waters off the Shetland Islands.

Internal company documents seen by The Independent show that the worst-case scenario for a spill from its North Uist exploratory well, to be sunk next year, would involve a leak of 75,000 barrels a day for 140 days – a total of 10.5 million barrels of oil, comfortably the world’s biggest pollution disaster.

Fossil fuels make it possible for stupid and unethical people to become hideously rich and powerful. That alone should be a reason to remove them from our world economy.

Sent October 12:

We’ve known for years that oil is toxic. The devastation of entire regional ecologies in the aftermath of spills is amply and tragically documented. Crude offers a remarkable array of carcinogens, along with many other toxins. Medicine is only beginning to understand the profound neurological consequences of crude oil exposure, but no sane person doubts that it’s viciously poisonous.

But that’s not all. It now appears that oil can cause profound cognitive damage even among those who don’t come in direct contact with it. The symptoms include significantly impaired judgment, including indifference to public opinion, ethical lapses, and an inability to draw logical conclusions from available data. How else shall we explain BP’s plans for exploratory drilling off the Shetland Islands?

The ghastly lessons of the Deepwater Horizon disaster have been ignored by the corporation most responsible. The ecosystems and economies of the Gulf of Mexico have no such luxury.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 23: Variations on a Theme

The BP disaster was really the gift that kept on giving for a letter-writer. This goes to the New Orleans Times-Picayune in response to their article on BP’s inept handling of the spill.

Since BP’s low-ball estimates of flow rate were the ones accepted by the media and the Federal government, the profoundly inadequate response on both public and private levels is unsurprising. What is bizarre is how strongly Tony Hayward and the rest of the BP team appeared to believe their own misinformation, as if the power of a misleading number would somehow make millions of gallons of oil swiftly and suddenly vanish away. This global giant is either so incompetent it cannot measure its own work accurately, or it is so unethical that it would circulate misstatements and spin in order to avoid responsibility. That’s the choice, and it’s a pretty unappealing one. America needs an energy economy where citizens aren’t daily forced to support corporations whose behavior is stupid, malevolent or some combination of the two.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 22: And Tell It, Tell It, Tell It!

As promised.

Dear Director Lubchenco,

The environmentally concerned public is anxiously awaiting the release of your report on the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico by the disastrous wreck of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon drilling project.

It is crucial that your report address the consistent spreading of misinformation on the part of BP and their allies in the industry. Lowballing of initial flow estimates; blocking the media from spill-affected areas; refusing to allow scientific specialists to conduct accurate measurements of flow from the gusher on the Gulf floor…the list goes on and on.

If we are to have a hope of trusting our government in a disaster of this magnitude, the report issued under your imprimatur must be absolutely truthful. The Gulf crisis was exacerbated by BP’s dissimulation, and it will be to the everlasting shame of our own government that the Administration accepted their estimates and assessments for so long. If it was obvious to any observant citizen that Tony Hayward and his spokespeople were lying through their teeth, why was our Coast Guard so trusting?

I recognize that your mandate is simply to provide an accurate scientific report on the consequences of the oil spill. But failing to address the toxic effects of corporate misinformation is to abdicate your responsibilities to the American people and to the health of the oceans you’ve devoted your life to studying. We cannot afford another Deepwater Horizon…and we cannot afford more lies, misdirection and dissimulation from the extractive industries who are responsible for so much of the world’s environmental degradation.

Thank you,

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 5: Many Happy Returns!

Bill McKibben wrote this absolutely kick-ass piece, which went up in a bunch of places. I was inspired. Then I read Bob Cesca’s piece at Huffington Post and was further inspired. So I combined the two in a long letter to POTUS, who hasn’t heard from me for at least a week.

Dear President Obama,

The oil flowing from the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster has finally been stopped, and for that we are all deeply grateful. But there is another spill which has not been capped — and if this one doesn’t get dealt with, all of us will be the losers.

I’m talking about the uncontrolled gusher of misrepresentations, evasions and equivocations that come from the mouths of BP spokesmen, from the PR outlets of Big Oil, from the offices of Senators and Representatives who have been taken over by petroleum interests…and, alas, from your own administration.

It is surely tempting to sugar-coat unpleasant facts; time and again we have learned that the political process is unkind to those who speak the truth bluntly and accurately. But there is a time for the actual truth, and now is that time.

The truth is — that BP spilled almost five million barrels of oil. If they’ve cleaned up three-quarters of it, that leaves about fifty-three million gallons, which is five times the size of the Exxon Valdez.

The truth is — that BP lied from the beginning about how much was flowing; far from cooperating in the cleanup process, they have done as much as they could to hide the details, restrict the flow of information, and make it impossible for accurate measurements to be taken.

The truth is — that the toxic dispersants they’ve used haven’t evaporated; they’ve dissolved into the seawater along with the oil. That doesn’t make the oil go away; it just hides it, and leaves the waters of the Gulf of Mexico a toxic chemical stew that will destroy ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.

The truth is — that BP was criminally careless in their handling of the Deepwater Horizon platform, and criminally careless in their handling of the disaster.

The truth is — that carelessness and mendacity are part and parcel of the strategic toolkit of Big Oil, day in and day out.

The truth is — that nobody in the United States should take anything an oil company representative utters at face value. To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, “Every word is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ “

The truth is — that global climate change is a slow-motion disaster unfolding before our horrified eyes, and it has been made possible by the malfeasance of our energy sector.

The truth is — that Americans need to hear the truth, and they need to hear it from their elected representatives.

And the truth is, Mr. President — that means you.

We can’t afford happy talk right now. We need to know how bad it’s gotten if we’re going to find ways to stop it from getting worse.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

PS — Happy Birthday!

Month 7, Day 6: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water…

The Chicago Tribune (last seen as the site of a remarkably stupid column by Jonah Goldberg) ran an unremarkable AP story noting that oil is now found on the beaches in every state that borders the Gulf.

The spreading filth from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon is making its presence felt everywhere. Beaches are contaminated, ecosystems shattered, and clean-up workers are already experiencing health problems. If anything good comes of this debacle, it must be that Americans finally come to terms with the truth about oil: it costs too much.

Not only have we subsidized oil production, keeping prices artificially low for decades, but we deferred the cost of cleaning up after our fossil fuel use, assuming that some future generation will have the technology well in hand when the bill comes due. Alas, it turns out we’re the generation who’ll have to pay — and the technology never got developed, as BP’s nonexistent contingency plans confirm. With oil accumulating on beaches everywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, the evidence mounts in each day’s news: we must break our addiction to oil, or it will break us.

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 18: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Newsweek has an article on the “Environmental Legacy of the Oil Spill,” discussing the aftereffects of a 400,000 gallon spill off the coast of Chile, thirty-six years ago. I used it as the hook for a pretty standard screed.

It’s good to know that decades after a huge oil spill off the Chilean coast, the affected areas are showing “signs of life.” And perhaps, decades from now, the shattered ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico will show some signs of life, too. Right now, however, with oil spewing from the ocean floor before mixing with toxic dispersant, we are finally learning some crude facts about the poisonous stuff that’s powered our nation’s addiction. Oil is dirty. It’s dirty when you take it out of the ground, it’s dirty when you move it from place to place, it’s dirty when you process it, and it’s dirty when you burn it. The slimy legacy of Reagan-era corporate deregulation is now washing ashore on Louisiana’s beaches, and it’s forcing us to face the simple truth: whether or not we know how, we must change our relationship with oil — because it’s killing us.

Warren Senders