Tag: oil spill
Cross-posted from Article XI.
"Going green" seems to be a tough chore for Dominion VA Power. Dominion recently announced that it will pay $5,600 in civil fines for a 700 to 800 gallon fuel oil spill that occurred at its Yorktown Power Station on Nov. 1, 2010, hardly more than a slap on the wrist for Dominion.
The fine is expected to be paid as soon as the Virginia Water Quality Control Board pulls the measure through the formal bureaucratic process.
The latest incident of Dominion's highlights the uncertainties inherent in the extraction and transportation of oil, natural gas, uranium ore, or any other natural resource. The only problem with these natural resources is that "leaks" can have serious human and environmental consequences, consequences from which there may be no short-term remediation.
Moreover, given the temporary nature of many mining and extraction companies in particular, the logic of capitalism would dictate against long-term efforts at remediation oftentimes necessary to completely "clean up."
While Dominion VA Power is an exception in that it has firm roots in Virginia, its centrality to Virginia's economy and close political ties with many levers of government give pause to the idea that coherent regulations can reduce or eradicate environmental disasters arising from negligence, incompetence, or complete disregard of environmental safeguards.
700 to 800 gallon fuel oil spills, and other related incidents, by Dominion hardly seem like a simple mistake. It is a systemic problem that should be addressed immediately before there is no natural world left to value.
The failure to capture the costs of this particular unassigned risk are dramatic and, in this case, quantifiable. Further, the casual dismissal of potential responsibility and the attempt to fix it on others is transparent. Both Marine Spill Response Corporation and National Response Corporation were set up to be the fall guys in the event of a less tragic event where BP would be positioned to claim it had been misled about the capabilities, dust itself off, and carry on.
It is much more difficult to fix costs when, for instance, mountaintop removal is used to mine coal that will produce poisonous pollutants as an end product. With this oil spill, the damage is impossible to disguise and easier to assess. Other industries that create waste that will either one day have to be cleaned up or will create permanent wastelands while reaping exorbitant margins by shifting real cost are harder to indict. Consumers who enjoy the benefit of such arrangements through lower prices at the counter are just as irresponsible as the corporations. But theirs are often acts of omission while the corporations' are acts of commission.
The BP obfuscation continues in the stories of skimming efforts. While it reports that more than 671,428 barrels of oil-water mixture have been captured, they are remiss in failing to mention that 90% of the mixture is water. In the end, $20 billion may not cover making the Gulf region whole. And equally as dangerous is the prospect that BP may be the victim of a corporate raid by our close ally, Libya. Imagine if the long term cost of this spill had been included in the price of a gallon of gasoline in anticipation of risk.
Bottom line: if the true cost of oil production or coal production, or battery production, or whatever, were captured by the producers and passed to the consumers, the free market could function more closely to the ideal manner described by the Chicago acolytes. The actual cost of energy would make the green alternative dynamic and profitable in a world where truth has value.
*The "thick oil spill" - let alone the overall surface oil spill - is so large, it would spread from "Dale City near Manassas in Prince William County and [go] as far as Wilmington, Delaware."
*"This oil spill could have been prevented."
*"The 2009 Government Accountability Office report said that during the previous administration categorical exclusions were issued far too frequently and it could lead to serious problems. Well, indeed, it did."
*The Dulles rail project "had to go through a 2-year environmental review that cost millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded money for a public project. But ironically, a private oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was excluded from that process. It didn't have to do it."
*"...we consciously decide[d] during the Bush administration and by previous Congresses, frankly controlled by our friends on the other side, consciously to exclude such oil drilling from the regular environmental review that could have detected problems..."
More after the "flip"
Second, we've learned that gutting the government, slashing oversight and regulation, and letting the industry - in this case, Big Oil - run amok, is a catastrophe waiting to happen. For more on this topic, see this article in today's Washington Post. In short, the horrors we're experiencing right now in the Gulf of Mexico - pelicans covered in oil, turtles floating dead in pools of black goo, an entire way of life threatened, billions of dollars in tourism revenue down the tubes, etc. - is the inevitable result of Club for Growth-style "conservative" "thinking." Never let anyone fool you again or claim to represent a "compassionate" strain of this nihilistic ideology. If they try to tell you that, just remind them what happened to the Gulf of Mexico after years of their "let industry get away with murder" policies.
Finally, we've learned what many of us already knew, that Sarah Palin's crazed chants of "drill, baby, drill" were as mindless and toxic as everything else that comes out of her mouth (or read off her hand). Check out these poll results, which finds that just 25% of Americans now support increased drilling in U.S. coastal waters, compared to 31% who say it should be decreased and 41% who say it should be kept the same. In contrast, 87% of Americans say we should develop more solar and wind power (correct answer!). In addition, majorities of Americans blame "weak federal regulations on offshore oil drilling," as well as "Inadequate enforcement of existing regulations" and "Unnecessary risks taken by BP and its drilling partners" for this debacle. Once again, correct answers!
In sum, after 52 days (and counting) of horror in the Gulf of Mexico -- all courtesy of the worldview espoused by people like Sarah Palin and Ken Kook-inelli -- any politician who continues to align himself or herself with Palin should be automatically disqualified from serious consideration for public office. That includes Palin endorsees Carly Fiorina in California, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Nikki Haley in South Carolina, none of whom should be allowed anywhere close to the seats of power. Unless, that is, you like seeing pictures of dead, oil-soaked dolphins and pelicans, and people whose way of life has been utterly devastated.
UPDATE: Also, see the ABC News live feed of what's going on.
UPDATE #2: CCAN (Chesapeake Climate Action Network) has issued a statement on President Obama's cancellation of Lease Sale 220.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network applauds President Obama for taking the much-needed and prudent step of canceling Lease Sale 220, proposed for 50 miles off Virginia's coast. Canceling the lease sale is an important first step towards what Virginia ultimately needs: a permanent ban on offshore oil drilling along Virginia's coasts and a sharpened focus on promoting offshore wind and other forms of clean, safe energy.
Now is the time to develop Virginia's clean offshore energy resource: Wind power. The commonwealth could easily get 10 percent of its electricity from offshore windmills, creating up to 10,000 jobs and enough power to run 3.6 million electric cars, with no threat of environmental or economic devastation.
Oil drilling can never be made entirely safe, and the consequences - as we now vividly see - can be catastrophic. The Hampton Roads area is home to the world's largest Naval Station and relies heavily on tourism. An oil spill off of Virginia's coast would be devastating not only to the environment but also to the economy. Industry and government estimates say there is untapped oil off the Virginia coast equal to just 6 to 24 days' worth of national demand. The risks of drilling are far too great for a potential reward that is far too small.
Governor Bob McDonnell wants to make Virginia the energy capital of the East Coast. We agree. Instead of recklessly drilling for oil, Virginia should lead the nation in offshore wind power. Virginians want windmills, not oil spills.
UPDATE #3: The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club has issued a statement. I've posted it after the "flip."
UPDATE #4: Environment Virginia has a statement as well, after the "flip."
Here are two videos of the 60-Minutes' interview with the electronics engineer who survived the blow-up of Deepwater Horizon, coupled with an interview with Dr. Bea, who has been asked by the White House to look into the infamous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (he also investigated the loss of the Columbia space craft and the flood from Katrina in New Orleans). You will be alternately chilled and boiling mad. I was unable to get the URL for the two videos to embed them in this diary, so here are the two links. If you have not seen this, it is well worth the time---- one of the most compelling things I have ever heard.