Month 12, Day 2: Get Me Two Packs of Marlboros. With Cheese.

Looks like we’re not going to keep drilling, baby, drilling after all, as the Times reports.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that it had rescinded its decision to expand offshore oil exploration into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast because of weaknesses in federal regulation revealed by the BP oil spill.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that a moratorium on drilling would be in force in those areas for at least seven years, until stronger safety and environmental standards were in place. The move puts off limits millions of acres of the Outer Continental Shelf that hold potentially billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.

Well, that’s excellent, and worthy of praise. But I’m just a grouch, I guess.

While it’s certainly good news that the Obama administration has abandoned its plans for further exploratory oil drilling on the East coast of the U.S., it is also a demonstration of just how far we have to go in our long national struggle for an energy economy free from the environmental and fiscal impacts of fossil fuels. Like those of Big Tobacco, the extractive industries’ P.R. aims to persuade us that fossil fuels are clean, safe, cheap and desirable — and all the past century’s collapsed mines, moonscaped mountaintops, sunken drilling platforms, ruptured pipelines, exploded refineries and drunken tanker captains have failed to change our minds. In the light of American intransigence regarding any possibility of a meaningful greenhouse emissions agreement at the Cancun Conference, Secretary Salazar’s announcement reminds one of a morbidly obese person topping off a Supersized order of junk food — with a diet soft drink.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 13: Grrrrrrr.


Dear Secretary Salazar — The Department of the Interior may have set some higher safety and environmental impact standards for offshore drilling, but will this translate into increased enforcement of these standards? If the moratorium on drilling is lifted, we need to significantly increase the budget for inspectors and regulators who will be a powerful presence on each and every drilling rig.

During the previous administration regulations were first gutted, then flouted, then ignored, leading inexorably to the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon disaster. It won’t make a bit of difference if the regulations are toughened unless the enforcement environment is made much, much, much more stringent.

The plain fact is that these big oil companies have been getting away with environmental crimes for decades — oil and coal extraction has severely damaged ecosystems around the world, many of them irrevocably. With our planetary system already in a state of shock from increased greenhouse gas emissions, there can no longer be any excuse for allowing fossil fuel industries free rein in their misuse of extractive technologies.

Any adjustment to safety and environmental regulations that assumes responsible behavior on the part of these organizations is hopelessly naive. I confess to grave disappointment; I had hopes that the present administration was prepared to recognize the grave environmental consequences of unbridled corporate sociopathy. I hope that I am proven wrong, but I am afraid that the Department of the Interior has just gotten played. Again.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

30 Jun 2010, 11:18pm

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  • Month 7, Day 1: Day 182! The Halfway Point!

    Submit YOUR comment against expansion of offshore drilling to the MMS Five-year Oil & Gas Program EIS here. I did.

    What America (and the world) needs is not more offshore drilling. What we need is a transformation in our approach to our energy needs. Our priorities must be shifted: conservation, frugality and efficiency need to be first priorities.

    More drilling is guaranteed to lead to more spills. We’ve already extracted the easily found oil; what’s left is going to be harder and harder to extract. As the recent revelations about major oil companies’ complete and pathetic lack of disaster preparations shows us, there are no effective strategies for coping with events of the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

    With our explosive growth in carbon emissions already beginning to radically transform the planet into a place much less hospitable to humans, do we really want to continue the destructive behaviors that have brought us to this pass? To continue burning ever more oil in heedless consumption puts us in the position of a heart patient who continues to smoke heavily.

    Our nation and the world can no longer afford it. Looking at an oil-soaked pelican, a drowned dolphin, or a burned sea turtle in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s evident: oil is the most expensive fuel of all.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Warren Senders

    Month 6, Day 24: Another Day, Another Dullard

    The Boston Herald ran the same AP story on Feldman’s ruling blocking the drilling moratorium. For a dose of idiocy, check out the comments. The Herald has yet to run one of my letters. Or maybe they have, and don’t bother to call or confirm. How would I know?

    Judge Feldman’s opinion is logically flawed. The government wants to stop exploratory drilling until it figures out what caused the catastrophe in the Gulf — and the judge decides that the platforms are safe, because nothing’s happened to them yet. Well, maybe that’s it’s done in Louisiana, but I learned that if something’s broken, you stop using it until it’s fixed. If my mechanic thinks my brakes are bad, it’s irresponsible to go back on the road, even if I haven’t had an accident. We don’t know all the factors that brought about the catastrophe on the Deepwater Horizon, and it’s a grotesque blunder to assume that because other drilling platforms haven’t yet exploded and sunk, they must be safe. I suspect the judge’s substantial investments had an influence; I have observed that oil, among its other malign side effects, appears to make people in positions of power act stupidly.

    Warren Senders

    Month 6, Day 23: The Dolphins Are Full Of Oil. Why Should Federal Judges Be Any Different?

    So the judge who overturned the drilling moratorium turns out to own a bunch of stock in oil and drilling companies. Gosh! Who could have expected it?

    Time Magazine ran an AP story on the injunction, but didn’t mention the Judge’s questionable investing practices, so I sent them the following:

    It should come as no surprise that Judge Martin Feldman, who just blocked the administration’s proposed moratorium on deepwater drilling, appears have substantial investments in companies involved in the offshore oil industry. Judge Feldman, according to 2008 reports, even owns stock in Transocean, the owners of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon platform. That Mr. Feldman did not immediately recuse himself from the case is revealing; it suggests that such a level of financial intimacy between the oil industry and the judiciary is not particularly remarkable. Oil kills pelicans, dolphins, fish and whales. It ruins ecosystems and local economies. It is destroying the atmosphere. It sullies everything it touches — including, apparently, the administration of justice in America. Even leaving aside the threat of catastrophic climate change, that alone should be reason to shift our consumption patterns — why continue giving money to the corrupt and undeserving?

    Warren Senders

    Month 6, Day 13: I’m Told That Fish Rot From The Head.

    Crooks and Liars had a very depressing piece about our Interior Secretary and his continued enabling of a Bush-style culture of corruption. Grrrrrr.

    Their piece links to Rolling Stone magazine, which is the original source. I haven’t read the full RS piece yet, because I’ve been dealing with the benefit concert (which went fabulously, by the way).

    Anyway, this goes off to the President tomorrow.

    Dear President Obama,

    When you announced a “moratorium” on offshore drilling, I was delighted. But as the details emerged, it began to look less and less like a really robust piece of environmental policy. What we need is a way to prevent future disasters; what we get is a halt of exploratory drilling at thirty-three deepwater rigs. Total number of deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico? Five hundred and ninety-one. Total offshore drilling rigs? Over fifty-one hundred. Thirty-three is a very small number — less than one percent. It should be the job of the Interior Secretary to regulate and control the oil industry, but Secretary Salazar is on record that the moratorium won’t affect production.

    The culture of corruption at the Minerals Management Service has continued; Secretary Salazar has long been an advocate of offshore drilling (going back to his time as a senator), and he is abusing his position in multiple ways. The BP Atlantis rig is located in waters 2,000 feet deeper than the Deepwater Horizon, only 150 miles from the Louisiana coastline. Congressional documents reveal that the Atlantis lacks required engineering certification for almost every one of its underwater components; British Petroleum’s own internal documents suggest that this failure of certification could lead to “catastrophic” errors. Why has the Atlantis not been shut down? Why has the MMS failed to address the safety risks of this platform since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe?

    According to the executive director of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), workers in many agencies inside the Department of the Interior (not just the Minerals Management Service) describe the culture as the “third Bush term.” The same managers are implementing the same policies. Is that the environmental legacy we need from the Obama Administration?

    I recognize that much of this is not, strictly speaking, your fault. President Bush and his cronies have planted many of their ideological allies in key bureaucratic positions throughout the government, and it is difficult to root these people out and to transform the bureaucratic culture appropriately. But it is increasingly clear that Ken Salazar isn’t interested in effecting this transformation at all.

    At a time when we urgently need a genuine climate and energy policy that builds the infrastructure of the future, the last thing we need is a relentless advocate of big oil, a proponent of offshore drilling, an ethically challenged enabler of corruption. Ken Salazar needs to go, and the Minerals Management Service needs to be dissolved.

    This is no time or place for compromise.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Warren Senders

    Month 5, Day 19: Dunk ’em All!

    Back to the Gulf. The Boston Herald printed an AP article on the effects of the spill on the fishing industry, so I used that as the hook for a short and vicious little rant. Will they print it? Ha.

    Oil gushes from a hole in the ocean floor; British Petroleum won’t let scientists measure the flow, although estimates go up to 80,000 barrels a day (almost 3.5 million gallons). While the corporations involved in the disaster point fingers at one another, and Republican senators block legislation raising the liability cap, there’s a different sort of buck-passing going on outside the hearing rooms of Congress: Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, just announced that it would give its shareholders a billion dollars in dividends (that’s twice the amount BP has spent thus far on this crisis). Meanwhile, tar balls wash ashore, the ocean is saturated with oil and toxic dispersants, and communities and industries that depend on the Gulf of Mexico are devastated. Will Big Oil and the politicians they’ve bought ever recognize that their responsibilities go beyond maximizing shareholder return on investment? Don’t bet on it.

    Warren Senders

    Month 5, Day 14: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

    Two articles in the NYT. One is a generic piece on the Kerry/Lieberman Climate/Energy Bill (sigh). The other notes that BP doesn’t want to know how much oil they’re releasing. Of course there are people who are making estimates that are closer to reality than the figures the Oil Flacks are giving out, but they’re all Dirty F**king Hippies, so the hell with them.

    The oil corporations are demonstrating that given a loose regulatory environment, they will behave like rabid skunks on speed. I fear for us all; I cannot really begin to imagine what it will take to rein them in at this point. Jail time in a maximum security prison for all their chief executives would help.

    We discover with depressing regularity that corporations are adept at minimizing, denying or shirking their responsibilities. B.P.’s unwillingness to engage scientific specialists in measuring the size of its oily underwater volcano is an indication that their PR department is making policy decisions — always a bad strategy. Drill, baby, drill; spill, baby, spill; spin, baby, spin! Meanwhile, the Senate is considering a climate and energy bill that does nothing to stop offshore drilling in the Arctic, where Shell Oil is getting ready to begin “exploratory drilling” within two months. Needless to say, weather and oceanic conditions in the Arctic are considerably harsher than in the Gulf of Mexico. Can anyone say, “disaster waiting to happen”? How many Deepwater Horizons is it going to take before we come to our collective senses? The catastrophe in the Gulf is a wake-up call: we must eliminate fossil fuels from our energy diet.

    Warren Senders

    Month 5, Day 12: Idiots Ahoy!


    Dear Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham,

    Today will see the unveiling of the Climate Bill you’ve been working on. I fear that the events of the past few weeks have made your approach to offshore drilling ludicrously out of date. The disaster of the Deepwater Horizon platform and British Petroleum’s pathetically inadequate response make it clear what our attitude towards Big Oil needs to be: No More. Similarly, the West Virginia mine disaster and the callously insensitive response of Massey Coal make it clear what our attitude towards Big Coal needs to be: No More.

    No More Mountaintop Removal. No More Offshore Drilling. No More Subsidized Waste, Fraud and Inefficiency. No More Subornation of Congress by the Fossil-Fuel Industry. No More Mendacity. No More Misrepresentation. No More Corporate Irresponsibility.

    No More Taking Carbon Out Of The Earth And Putting It In The Atmosphere.

    When a newly released report from the National Academy of Sciences suggests that a 21-25 degree level of warming is possible over the next several centuries, and further points out that this would render the planet effectively uninhabitable — and states unequivocally that this warming is a possible consequence of “business as usual,” isn’t it obvious that we cannot continue to do business as usual?

    We have to stop. Senators, whatever happened to the American “can do” spirit? Where is your confidence in the industrial sector of our country? Where is your confidence in American know-how? American ingenuity? American resourcefulness? The American sense of responsibility?

    Have they been replaced by American irresponsibility, ineffectuality, incompetence, and insularity?

    Judging by the discrepancy between what we need and what we’ll get, the answer is “yes.”

    Our descendants will judge us harshly. But don’t feel too bad. If we continue “business as usual,” they’ll inherit an unimaginably hostile world — and they’ll probably be too busy struggling to survive to waste much energy on assigning blame. Drill, Baby, Drill!

    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