June 23, 2010

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I stopped buying BP petrol shortly after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, although in my heart of hearts I know that such a protest is not only pretty damned feeble, as I’m still forced to drive my car to work and live, but even rather hypocritical. It doesn’t really matter which company I buy my petrol from; the oil industry as a whole is corrupt, the bottom line has always attracted bottom feeders. It was just BP’s bad luck as it could have been anyone’s oil rig – self-regulation a joke, EPA a toothless dog, and safety measures habitually disregarded by every major oil corporation making oil spills not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’ and ‘how big’ in the ever-increasing drive to suck out as much of the rapidly dwindling supplies of gas and oil as possible before it runs out.

And while delegates at the World National Oil Companies Congress in London this week argue that they must be allowed to continue deepwater drilling despite the risks because land and shallow-water oil supplies are running out, BP is further destroying what little public support they have left, - other than from those Republicans and judges who own shares in oil production - by obstructing private citizens with small boats from doing their best to rescue sea turtles. BP is using shrimp boats to corral the spill into enclosed areas with fire-resistant booms, then setting it on fire to burn off the oil, not only killing hundreds if not thousands of sea turtles by boiling them alive, but destroying incalculable numbers of crabs, slugs, and surface fish that live in the Gulf of Mexico’s sargassum seas, crucial habitats for turtles, birds and larger fish.

Yet rather than aid volunteers and scientists battling to save the sargassum wildlife, BP is aggressively hindering any rescue efforts. ‘They ran us out of there and then they shut us down, they would not let us back in there,’ one of the rescue boat captains, Mike Ellis, told conservation biologist Catherine Craig.

BP has good, if shocking, reason to want to kill these turtles. The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is on the Endangered Species Act list. Harming them is punishable by prison sentences and fines of up to $25,000 per violation – per turtle. But rather than allow rescuers to collect injured turtles from the burn boxes before the containment fires are lit, BP is choosing to deliberately burn the animals alive, thus incinerating the damning evidence.

Blair Witherington, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who has been part of the sea turtle rescue mission observed the destruction going on in the sargassum waters. ‘Ordinarily, the sargassum is a nice, golden colour,’ he said. ‘You shake it, and all kinds of life comes out: shrimp, crabs, worms, sea slugs. The place is really just bursting with life. It's the base of the food chain.’ But now those areas are dying or already dead. ‘We'll see flying fish, and they'll land in this stuff and just get stuck.’ The sea jellies and snails that drift in these currents that form the major food sources for turtles have been almost totally exterminated. ‘These animals drift into the oil lines and it's like flies on fly paper,’ Witherington said. ‘As far as I can tell, that whole fauna is just completely wiped out. Most of the Gulf of Mexico is a desert. Nothing out there to live on. It's all concentrated in these oases.’

Destroying the planet used to be the stuff of scary movies and second-rate science fiction novels, something that might happen in the future, maybe, someday. So we ate our popcorn and alphabetized our battered collection of paperbacks, and continued to believe it was all still safely in the future, at arm’s length, a few accidents here and there distressing, but always with the faith that we’d recover.

But we’ve run out of the future, and it’s here. Now.

The Gulf of Mexico is dead. Gaslands is exposing how oil and gas companies are willing to literally tear the earth apart to extract more fossil fuel, even if that means the water all life depends on becomes so contaminated you can set it on fire as it comes out your tap. Yet politicians are still caving to pressure by the oil industry to be allowed to drill, baby, drill, because, according to BP chief of staff Steve Westwell, ‘the world does need the oil and the energy that is going to have to come from deepwater production going forward.’ And if that’s not enough, oil executives aren’t averse to invoking the terrorism card, as Jay Pryor, Chevron's global vice president for business development warns any impediment to deepwater drilling would, ‘be a step back for energy security.’

Greenpeace protesters were, not surprisingly, tossed out after heckling oil executives in London, but oil companies still seem to be playing by the old Bush playbook – an Associated Press photographer covering the event who had merely talked to the protesters was denied re-entering the conference, because he ‘posed a security threat.’

You want to see a real ‘security threat’?

Brazil, home of Petrobras and the P-36 rig disaster, is planning to build 28 deepwater rigs off South American waters, as well as sinking exploratory wells in deep waters around New Zealand. Shell is still hoping to drill off the coast of Alaska, despite the warnings that any similar spill to the Deepwater Horizon’s would be even worse in Alaskan waters than the Gulf of Mexico. Shukri Ghanem, the head of Libya's National Oil Corporation and the nation's de facto oil minister, is defending BP, calling the scale of the massive spill as ‘exaggerated.’ BP has onshore operations and shallow-water rigs in Libya and signed a 900 million dollar exploration and production deal with Libya, whose proven oil reserves are the ninth-largest in the world.

Libya has said it plans to start deepwater drilling in the Mediterranean in the near future.

The Mediterranean? You have got to be kidding me. Have we all gone fraking insane?

It’s very simple. Oil is running out. It’s not a renewable energy source, no matter how deep you dig the wells, no matter how much geology you shatter to extract the gas. The turnip is running out of blood. The reality is, we depend on our cars. To work. To live. Turning America into a nation of bicycle riders is never going to happen. But rather than spend money on developing alternate sources of energy, with technology that already exists, we continue to allow oil companies and politicians with financial interests in oil to destroy this planet and all life on it in our insatiable demand for fossil fuels.

It has to stop. Now. Because if it doesn’t, there’s going to be a lot more than just rare turtles BP cooks in its toxic soup.

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