“We’re Gonna Need Bigger Boat”

My neighbors are starting to refer to our block as “The Farm” because of all the fruit trees and vegetables that grow in our gardens. We have bees and chickens and the guys across the street make beer with hops that grow along our fences.

Margaret is our master gardener, dispensing advice. Last week she helped me prune a young plum tree so it will crown out and have sturdy limbs to support heavy crops of fruit in years to come. She lectured as she cut, telling me that by being selective, the tree would react in certain ways and side growth would be privileged over upward growth.

The world “privilege” stuck in my head. Here we were, Margaret and I, blithely interfering in nature with our bypass shears. The idea was to take certain actions in hope of obtaining particular outcomes.

We all do it, all the time. We choose one thing over another and we change the course of our personal history. Or we refuse to choose and our history is written for us, but it is written whatever we do or fail to do.

The executives at BP privileged profits over stewardship and look where they are now. Their corporation’s stock yesterday stood at half the value it had the day the Deepwater Horizon exploded and the slide continues today. Business pundits are wondering if perhaps the world’s fourth-largest corporation may be broken up and sold for spare parts. What color is your parachute, Tony Hayward?

Barack Obama, like every other US president before him, has privileged fossil fuels over every other form of energy. Tax breaks, incentives, oil depletion allowances, the list goes on forever. Greedy executives like Mr. Hayward have been allowed to regulate themselves and worse, to determine the America’s energy policy.

Mr. Obama, like every president before him (although Jimmy Carter should be recognized – finally – for his straight talk), uses “our dependence on foreign oil” as an excuse for more asinine drilling and less oversight of the drillers.

The United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil. The United States has two-three percent of the world’s oil under its territory. We cannot reduce our dependence on foreign oil unless we reduce our dependence on oil. If government-run lotteries are a tax on people too stupid to do simple arithmetic, then “drill, baby, drill” is a slogan for people too stupid to be running for office.

“Do something! Do something! Show some emotion!” the press screams at the president. The hell with emotion. Change our energy policy! Start privileging efficiency, conservation and renewables over fossil fuels and nukes! We’ve already killed the Gulf of Mexico on your watch; do you want to go for the whole planet now? If you can’t act like a president, could you at least try for “adult”?

This week we’ve been told that the siphon BP installed on the blown-out wellhead is working, although the numbers BP puts out keep changing. We do know that to install the siphon, BP had to cut away part of the well’s riser, thus increasing the flow of oil. It’s been reported that the flow of oil may now be as many as 100,000 barrels per day or 42 million gallons per day. That’s four Exxon Valdez spills a day – but BP’s siphon is taking as much 15,000 barrels per day, because that’s all the boat at the surface can hold. (Are there no supertankers available, anywhere in the world, at any price? One would think every oil executive on this soiled planet would have an interest in seeing this tragedy end.)

One of this fiasco’s enduring tragedies will be the height at which the bar is now set for oil spills. As big as 10 Exxon Valdez spills? Ha! That’s nothing! Tony Hayward used to spill more than that from his 10 a.m. teacup.

© Mark Floegel. 2010

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