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Could Oil from a Cuban Spill Reach Virginia’s Coast?

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Brown Pelicans Wait for Cleaning at Ft. JacksonWith Cuba set to begin oil drilling, Anya Landau French blogs for the Christian Science Monitor that a Cuban oil spill could deliver disaster far beyond the Gulf of Mexico:
Now, after several delays, with a Chinese-built Italian oil rig, the Scarabeo 9, on its way to Cuba, drilling of the first of five exploratory wells in Cuban deep water is set to commence this December.

A spill from this first, easternmost exploratory well to be drilled by the Repsol consortium could be particularly damaging due to its location where the Gulf Stream exits the Gulf of Mexico for the Atlantic. Whereas the BP disaster was somewhat "contained" in the northern Gulf, Piñón tells me to "imagine a fan-shaped spill with the well as the axis." If something were to go wrong on Scarabeo 9, we could see and feel the effects of a major oil spill in Cuban deep water not just in Florida, but far up the Atlantic coast.

And as Fareed Zakaria writes, "the nearest and best experts on safety procedures and dealing with oil spills are all American, but we are forbidden by our laws from being involved in any way with Cuba." What could go wrong?

Warner’s Webb of Drilling Mania

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Nothing says I care about environmental health more than another big oil and gas rig planted serenely in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What beauty, you might be thinking! What elegance! Look as the infrastructure corrodes and this giant's legs rust and grow barnacles with each passing week. What visual splendor!

Of course, think of the view those marine animals must have. Aren't you jealous? I'd imagine the feeling is akin to having an individual Eiffel Tower being placed over my home. Wouldn't you be thrilled? Think of the economic benefits, after all!

The first two paragraphs were satirical. But what many of us turn a blind eye to everyday is no laughing matter. Senators Webb and Warner have not assured Virginians that safety issues aboard oil and gas rigs have been appropriately addressed (when that unimportant little incident in the Gulf of Mexico is even mentioned these days), and yet the gallant efforts for more oil and gas in the Atlantic continues.

I won't purport to be an expert on rig safety just as I won't allow myself to be played for a political foul. Safety measures cost time and money, in some cases, a lot of time and money. And we all know how the game of capitalism has worked in the U.S.: make profits and then make some more, even if it means cutting necessary safety corners.  

Maybe Virginians like to drill holes in the ground, period. Not only do Virginia's political "leaders" want to drill holes in the Atlantic, they want to drill holes in southern Virginia. And I'm not even mentioning the preexisting holes that have been drilled in Virginia's soil.

So what, you might gab back? In the case of the Atlantic Ocean in particular, drilling holes stands to create a complex host of effects for marine animals living in the area, effects that are still unknown to many scientists and policy "experts." What's the value of disrupting and possible eliminating any number of marine species? Of course, this outcome may or may not happen, but are we really willing to chance it for questionable amounts of oil and gas resources?

Between Senator Webb's history writing adventures and Senator Warner's grand visions of becoming president, Virginia seems to have lost its progressive leadership. Maybe it was never truly there to begin with. Or maybe our politicians have themselves been worn down by the political process. Any way you spin the bottle, the results may be the same: a grim future for Virginia's environmental integrity and ecosystem sustainability.  

Warner & Webb Tag-team a Lift on Oil and Gas Exploration...

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Cross posted from Article XI

Who needs Sarah Palin when Virginia has its very own proponents of "Drill, baby, drill" in the form of Jim Webb and Mark Warner? Notwithstanding the fact that drilling today wouldn't start producing benefits for some time to come, the tendency to concentrate on fossil fuels distracts our political representatives from seeing the bigger picture: renewable forms of energy are the future. The argument often follows, among others, that renewable forms of energy aren't economical enough at present. If we take this claim to be true for the moment, it might well be because government subsidies have gone to environmentally devastating forms of energy like the fossil fuels instead of renewable forms of energy (as if Big Oil and Big Coal and Big Gas needed more money).

I can't think of one form of energy that's in widespread use right now that has not received some form of government subsidy to "get the ball rolling." But the tepid investments in energy sources like wind and solar are simply not enough to bring these renewables to scale in a timely fashion. It is as if there are some special interests who are opposed to the widespread use of renewable forms of energy in America!

Of course, there are such groups in America, groups who would rather poison the American people and exterminate the natural world as we know it (or used to know it) for a profit. But my concern isn't simply that of someone who loves the natural world intrinsically. It is a practical argument that takes into account the harmful economic consequences that environmental devastation has had, is having, and will have in the future for America, a form of devastation that has been fueled (sorry for the pun) by nonrenewable forms of energy.

Still we wait and hope for the best. Maybe our rational and scientific minds will find the magical solution to this dilemma. Maybe the "American spirit" will figure out an ingenious method to pour more poison into our rivers and atmosphere without the environmental and human health repercussions. That might be what Senators Warner and Webb think; otherwise their actions bear little rational justification.  

Look On The Bright Side Of Oil Disasters!

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Hey, maybe we just haven't been looking on the bright side of oil disasters. The ocean gains new traits ... like being able to light it on fire! And maybe new species will evolve, like birds that ... uh ... enjoy being sticky!

From IFC's The Whitest Kids U' Know (featuring Trevor Moore, who grew up in Charlottesville, and Arlington native Zach Cregger):

Bob McDonnell Wants To, Uh, Y’Know, Do The Thing That Gets...

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For someone so anxious to drill for oil just miles from Virginia Beach, Bob McDonnell is awfully terrified to say the word "drill." In his op-ed today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Gov. McDonnell never uses the words "drill" or "drilling" - not even once.

And with good reason! You might remember the image at right, produced in the very early days of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to show what the slick - just a fraction of the size it would eventually become - would look like if it happened off the Virginia coast. And as much as Gov. McDonnell would like us to forget about those thousands of dead birds, hundreds of dead endangered sea turtles, and more than a hundred dead dolphins, he's wrong dismiss the Gulf oil disaster as an "accident." The Gulf oil disaster was no random twist of fate - the bipartisan commission that investigated the blowout said it was the result of a series of bad decisions by the people doing the oil drilling, called the disaster "avoidable," and warned that without significant reform (which we're still waiting on), it could happen again.

But even if oil drilling was less dangerous than it is, would drilling off Virginia do us any good? The U.S. consumes 22% of the world's oil but holds only 1.5% of global oil resources. During the Obama administration, U.S. oil production is up sharply - but that hasn't done a thing to stop gas prices from rising sharply as well. The same story is true on a global scale - worldwide oil production is up, but oil prices are up too. Worldwide consumption is up and the dwindling supplies of oil left underground are getting more & more expensive to drill.

We can't drill our way out of our energy problems. The only way we can reduce our oil costs over the long term is to use less oil - fuel-efficient cars in the short-term, renewable energy-powered electric cars in the long term, and building more transit options & more walkable communities over the really long haul so our lives aren't tethered to the gas pump.

But hey, Bob McDonnell didn't get $33,150 from Exxon Mobil by pushing for hybrid school buses! He got it by promising to open up Virginia's coastline to drilling & leaving it to some future governor to worry about apologizing for how no one could possibly have predicted an oil disaster here.

Will Cantor Lead or Hide Behind Boehner on Cutting Wasteful Big...

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In the face of gas prices skyrocketing past $4 a gallon, House Republicans are starting to regret their vote last month to preserve billions in annual subsidies for Big Oil. With U.S. oil production up sharply AND gas prices up sharply, clearly those subsidies aren't doing consumers any good (though Big Oil's profits are doing just fine). House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) may finally be backing off his support for oil giveaways.

It's not hard to see why Republicans are reconsidering their positions - an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 74% of voters support eliminating tax breaks to oil companies.

So why are Republicans even thinking about doubling down on billions in subsidies for oil companies? Just in the first quarter of 2011, Exxon Mobil gave Cantor $5,000. (And don't forget that, thanks to the Supreme Court's pro-corporate Citizens United decision, campaign cash is getting harder & harder to track.)

"It couldn't be clearer that these companies are the least deserving of taxpayer money and government handouts," says Navin Nayak of the League of Conservation Voters. "It's past time for Rep. Cantor whose hands are covered in oil to end his support for this obscene corporate welfare and start standing up for the people of Virginia."

What Energy Sources Do Your Tax Dollars Subsidize?

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Republicans squawk about incentives for renewable energy because those are new & need approval, while dirty energy sources locked in their subsidies long ago - like, say, the tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks Virginia gives to dirty coal companies every year. Why not eliminate all subsidies & put a simple price on carbon pollution? That's what dirty energy companies (and the politicians they fund) are terrified of.

Graphic via Good.is

“Carnivoil” Comes to Richmond Tomorrow

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Courtesy of Environment Virginia.
'CarnivOil' Comes to Richmond, Celebrating the Greatest Addiction on Earth Big Oil: Keeping America dependent on oil for 150 years and celebrating victory over Virginia's clean energy future

Richmond, Va. - The U.S. Senate's failure to pass a clean energy and climate bill this summer, coupled with the continued push to block new clean air standards, is reason to celebrate if you profit from America's oil addiction. Highlighting Big Oil's stranglehold on Washington, we present "CarnivOil": the Greatest Addiction on Earth - a celebration of America's addiction to oil with an outdoor midway-style carnival complete with games, concessions, and some Big Oil-style celebrating. Step right up! Don't be afraid. See the world's biggest polluters - by looking behind the curtain.

Games will include the Petroleum Wheel of Doom, Oil Executive Boxing and the Big Oil version of the famous Hammer game. The event highlights Big  Oil's success in pocketing Congress, while blocking progress toward a clean energy future and threatening to kill American jobs and worsen public health with the Dirty Air Act.

WHAT: CarnivOil: The Greatest Addiction on Earth: complete with games to celebrate Big Oil's success
WHEN: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
TIME: 11 am - 1 pm ET
WHERE: Monroe Park, 620 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220

Keith Fimian’s Answer to BP Oil Disaster: Deregulate, “Drill Baby...

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This is beyond stupid. This is Sarah Palin/Joe Barton stupid! In all seriousness, if Keith Fimian had his way, BP would regulate itself, government would let Big Oil do whatever it wants, and Gulf of Mexico oil disasters would be commonplace.  Why would anyone vote for someone with Keith Fimian's toxic political philosophy?  I suppose if they hate pelicans, dolphins, turtles, clean water, white sandy beaches, and people who live on the Gulf coast, it makes perfect sense.