Month 6, Day 15: Don’t Get Mad, Get Madder!

I have a houseguest & I’m really tired. I just opened up this piece on Daily Kos, read it, got outraged, and wrote Ed Markey and Henry Waxman a letter asking them to get a little tougher on the gang of criminals who are obviously in charge of British Petroleum.

You should read that piece, too. It’ll make you mad. Maybe you should get mad — and write a letter to someone!

Dear Representatives Markey and Waxman,

We need to understand a few things about what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now. It is absolutely crucial that congressional hearings bring up some of the following questions:

1. Why is British Petroleum apparently giving orders to the Coast Guard — and why is the Coast Guard taking orders from BP? A recent CBS News clip documented an incident of local television journalists being turned away from taking photographs of dead and dying sea life, saying: “A boat of BP Contractors, with 2 Coast Guard officials on board, told us turn around under threat of arrest — explaining ‘This is BP’s rules — it’s not ours’ ” In my naivete, I had the impression that the Coast Guard worked for the people of this country, not a British-owned oil company.

2. Why is BP failing to do genuine cleanup work in threatened areas? Booms have been put in place in wildlife protection areas, but no follow-up or monitoring has been instituted. The result? The only thing actually being contained is bad publicity for BP. The oil, meanwhile, is killing birds, sea turtles, fish and dolphins, and it’s only going to get worse. Frankly, we need more bad publicity for British Petroleum.

3. Why is BP making cleanup contractors sign agreements not to talk to the media? This company blatantly ignored safety regulations, gamed the system to its benefit for decades, and now (through its own negligence and carelessness) poised to wipe out both unique local ecologies and unique local economies. They should not be in a position to dictate terms to their contract employees.

Reporters from the New York Daily News interviewed BP contractors, who took them to locations where dolphin carcasses were dead and rotting. The contractor interviewed said, “When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at. There is a lot of cover-up for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here. The things I’ve seen… They just aren’t right. All the life out here is just full of oil.”

4. Why is BP unable to handle calls from Gulf area residents? Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, BP set up call centers to handle questions and concerns. But according to a Houston television station, they’ve over 200,000 phone calls have been received…but they go nowhere. People whose lives and communities are under terrible threat are made to think their messages are being formally documented when in fact they are not even written down by call center operators.

The overall impression of BP is one of a malicious and often criminal incompetence made possible by a feeble regulatory environment. While congressional hearings cannot get the oil back into the earth, they can be a big step towards ensuring that such a disastrous failure of regulation never happens again.

I’m hoping to see British Petroleum executives testifying under oath, with jail sentences available for any who are in contempt or who are proven to have perjured themselves. There is no need to be nice to these people; they’ve destroyed one of our country’s most important natural resources, and the full extent of the damage they’ve caused won’t be understood for years.

Their incompetence and criminality are yet another set of very good reasons to end our national dependence on oil; it makes these people wealthy and powerful, and they don’t deserve wealth or power — they deserve jail time.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 6: Variations on a Theme

Haven’t written to Ed Markey in a while; didn’t feel as much of a need, since ACES passed the House. But in the wake of this awful event, I thought I should tell him to raise a little hell.

Dear Representative Markey — I write as one of your constituents, and as an American citizen who is hopeful that in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Earth-destroying systems that comprise the fossil fuel industries may finally be brought to bay. The recent tragedy in a West Virginia coal mine showed us again the ugly face of the coal industry (personified exactly by the avatar of greed, Mr. Don Blankenship); the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico shows us again the utter unconcern of British Petroleum (and the rest of Big Oil) for the environmental effects of their activity.

The objection raised to renewable energy is invariably that it is “too expensive.” As we can see in the last two months’ news, it is actually oil and coal that are too expensive: too expensive in lives, in environmental destruction, in cleanup bills, in the costs of war, in health effects, in contributions to global warming.

I write this letter to ask you and Representative Waxman, as the “point people” for energy and climate issues in the House, to stand up and tell the American people that we need to confront our deadly addiction to fossil energy head on; we must educate ourselves about the true costs of oil and coal.

We have to start learning, and stop burning.

There is no time to lose, and none to waste.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

cc: Rep. Henry Waxman

Month 3, Day 8: When the Methane Hits The Fan…

Stickin’ with the North Pole farts for the time being. I’m on my way out to a gig, so my brain is pretty close to empty. When I’m tired and distracted I write workmanlike letters that address the issues without rhetorical flourishes. This is one of them.

Dear Representatives Waxman and Markey,

I write to urge you to initiate action on the extremely troubling news of Arctic methane release. According to a recently-published article in the journal Science, billions of tons of methane under the sub-sea permafrost in the Arctic ocean is now entering the atmosphere. This is certain to accelerate the greenhouse effect even further, since methane is 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat,

Climatologists’ prediction models haven’t yet been revised to account for the new data, but it’s pretty clear (unless you’re a FOX News commentator, a Republican, or George Will) that our current “worst-case” scenarios are hopelessly optimistic.

While this news is sure to trigger a round of fart jokes from Sean Hannity and his colleagues, it is a sad fact that while some of us strive to ensure humanity a safe and sustainable future, our corporate sector is heavily invested in denying the nature of the threat. With the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United opening up the floodgates to corporate influence in elections, we can look forward to thinly disguised climate denialism saturating our airwaves in the months leading up to November’s election.

Will the American public fall for it? Will our nation’s citizens believe it when they’re told that “Carbon Dioxide is life,” or “Methane is good for you?” Given the precipitous decline in scientific literacy in our country over the past several decades, I think it’s all too likely that this latest news won’t be treated with the respect it deserves.

I urge the two of you to initiate action in the House of Representatives. A sub-committee needs to study the problem and make recommendations for legislative action. America has to lead the world in addressing these crises.

There is no time to waste; no time to lose.

Yours sincerely,

Warren Senders