Likely path of the oil for four months following the spill. The colors represent the concentration of the oil. 0.20 (dark red) means the oil is 20% as concentrated as it is directly over the spill site. (Source:cnn.com)

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill will most likely make its way to South Florida and directly affect South Floridians in one way or another. It’s easy to point the finger at BP, but the truth is that this oil company is simply providing a resource to satisfy a market demand. This is the essence of capitalism. Yes, they certainly share in the responsibility of the oil spill, but the biggest accomplice to the oil spill is the American lifestyle. I’m hoping this tragedy may be the long overdue wake up call for all Americans; we cannot have our cake and it eat too. We all share the blame for this oil spill.

As long as we have an economy and a lifestyle which is lubricated by cheap oil and a transportation system that depends on fossil fuels, we can only blame ourselves for this and future oil spills. Obama’s talking points on the oil spill generally focus on the need for alternative and renewable energy, yet he is mute on energy conservation, an increase of the gas tax, and the need to expand public transit. The administration is missing out on a golden opportunity here, particularly to increase the gas tax.

An increase of the gas tax and energy conservation work hand in hand. Let’s make gas more expensive and watch consumption plummet. Americans would then think twice about buying a house in the far exburbs or take that unnecessary trip by car just to pick up a gallon of milk at the store a mile away from their homes. Public transit would also look more appealing with higher gas prices.

I’d like to hear more rhetoric from Obama that focuses on allocating more dollars to public transit, particularly rail. The gulf oil spill dialogue should also encompass the development of more pedestrian and bike friendly communities with increased density. It’s so easy to point the finger at BP, but we all share culpability for this oil spill in one way or another. Conservation needs to be our focus, not alternative energy. We need a national strategy and policy that focuses on conservation. This, however, will require a sacrifice by all Americans.  The question is are we up for this challenge and are we willing to spend the money to build a national public transit system which is less dependent on oil?

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14 Responses to Who’s to blame for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill?

  1. John says:

    in the dark ages progress was slowed by religion; and now progress is being trampled upon by money. not ”whats better for people” but ”whats better for the economy”

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  2. MrSunshine561 says:

    Felipe, I think you will find this interesting, if you haven’t already seen it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masdar_(city)

    A car-free city with personal rapid transit…

    And the spill will affect us, not effect us. :)

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  3. Which is why the calls to boycott specifically BP are doomed to failure — the demand moves to another brand, but that demand is still there, and that oil still must come from somewhere.

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  4. Harsh Voice of Reality says:

    Hey knuckleheads! The world economy runs on petroleum. It is the only source of energy plentiful and cheap enough to keep us from sinking into a new dark ages. You guys love to blame Bush for the recession, but it was $4-5 dollar gasoline that was a punch in the gut that killed jobs, airlines and Wall Street. Taxing the crap out of gas won’t get people to migrate to equally expensive alternative fuels, it knocks the snot out of GDP. I realize you Polyannas would love to frolic in a clean, green world, free of icky oil and dirty coal and scary nuclear energy, but it ain’t gonna happen in your lifetime or that of your kids. Deal with it and find a cause that’s reasonable, effective and acheivable.

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  5. Felipe Azenha says:

    Harsh Voice of Reality,
    Read my post again, I did not blame Bush for the recession. You need to get your facts straight, $4-5 gasoline did not kill jobs, airlines and Wall Street. An unsustainable housing bubble along with deriatives sent us into a reccession. Most of the world pays a lot more for gasoline then we do, and they get by just fine.
    Your oil based mentaility will keep all of us in the dark ages.

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  6. Jeff O. says:

    I couldn’t agree more, especially about a gas tax. We are all responsible, so we all need to be paying the true cost for polluting sources of energy. This will help spark innovation and transportation alternatives.

    Side note: Obama did just give a speech where he led with efficiency/conservation… http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-02-obama-on-the-climate-bill-we-will-get-it-done

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  7. JM Palacios says:

    Actually the poor economy killed the gas prices (not the other way around). When we get out of it, watch them soar once again.

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  8. Unfortunately, we are so dependent upon oil, that to go to a petroleum-free country overnight would have devasting economic consequences (costs of goods, etc.). The bicycle is a important part of the overall solution to freeing ourselves from this auto-cratic world we live in.

    A great book on point to read (or download as an audiobook) is Col. Andrew Bachevich’s book “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionism”. He also blogs at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-bacevich

    His point: Our entire foreign policy for the past 30 years has been entirely focused upon protecting our over-consumption of oil, at it has come at the expense of the sustainability of our country. And he’s a Republican!

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  9. Mike Moskos says:

    I read a lot on these subjects . . . I’m on the side of high oil prices causing the worldwide economic depression (mislabeled a recession). The rise and fall of the “ownership society” was simultaneous, but not the underlying cause of our problems.

    In all likelihood, it was the almost 4 year run up of oil prices that caused the worldwide economy to collapse: economies around the world started to falter long before anyone heard of subprime. Prices rise, people can’t consume as much because everything they buy has gone up in price, companies sell less.

    On the other hand, the Federal Reserve created both the ownership society and the conditions that led to its collapse. Sadly, we can expect our Keynesian overseers (Bush and Obama) to continue to do the same things that Hoover/Roosevelt did that kept the US in the first depression for so many years.

    Do you need additional gas taxes? YES, with a big qualification: politicians cannot do what they always do in cases like this: “summon the political will” and impose a big hike in the gas tax all at once. Its MUST be gradual, say one additional cent a month to allow people to readjust their behavior and not damage the economy. That our currency is the reserve currency of world has allowed gas to be much cheaper in this country than it would be in normal circumstances (read: any other country without a reserve currency). This has created a market distortion leading to hell hole suburbs/exburbs, decrepit cities, long commutes, and the emptiness from the very real loss of community.

    One last thing: America pumps a lot of its own oil; we’re the most explored country on earth. But, like every other fuel producer, our existing wells are running out. The Gulf of Mexico contains our biggest pool of untapped oil. We can expect more, not less, drilling there (along of course with the inevitable damage). Natural gas, which we thought we were running out of just a few years ago is in plentiful supply due to new extraction techniques.

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  10. Silver says:

    I know the price of gas is cheaper here in the US than in the rest of the world, but how does that translate into per person consumption? Are other countries less car dependant than we are? Is public transportation more prevalent in places where gas prices are higher (and is it because of higher gas prices)? Or by simply raising the price of gas does it mean that people in the US will cut back on other things/ adjust differently but continue to live in our personal car culture?

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  11. JM Palacios says:

    We proved in 2008 that higher gas prices drive people to more efficient transportation, as transit systems were setting ridership records left and right and carpooling and other modes shot up as well. Did you forget that already?

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  12. Felipe Azenha says:

    Jeff,
    I couldn’t agree with you more about our foreign policy. Perhaps you can come over for dinner and we can have this conversation with my father-in-law? He is a retired general in the Air Force; should make for interesting conversation. Ha!

    Mike,

    I’ll agree with you to a certain extent; I think the high price of oil was the nail in the coffin for the worldwide economic downturn. There were many factors that contributed to the downturn, some of them include prolonged low interest rates which created a housing bubble, and poorly understood derivatives. Unacceptable banking practices by housing lenders was another big factor. Low oil prices contributed to a housing boom in the exburbs; these housing developments failed as soon as gas prices neared $3.50/gallon.

    As you mentioned, the gas tax needs to be introduced incrementally. Americans do need to adjust to the reality that gas will not be cheap for much longer. The best way to do so is by introducing a gas tax. We need to stop delaying the inevitable.

    I still have hope that as each day passes, and oil continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps Americans will start asking themselves the hard questions.
    But you are probably right, as you stated “We can expect more, not less, drilling”.
    I hope you are wrong. Thanks for your comments.

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  13. Felipe Azenha says:

    Mike,
    I think you’ll enjoy this article from today’s Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/10/AR2010061004971.html

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  14. Mike Moskos says:

    The 2 biggest impediments to using transit are the much longer travel times and the fact that once you’ve made the investment in a car (or moped or motorcycle), its hard to justify that AND a monthly transit ticket. The best thing public transit has going for it is that someone else drives: you arrive relaxed and if you’re really smart, you use the time to read/watch videos/listen to podcasts (esp. on stuff that will allow you advance your career or enrich yourself in some way).

    Our heavy rail systems (Metrorail and Tri Rail) have SO much potential; they can move as many people as our interstates with little increase in costs. But, cars will be one of the last things people give up, largely because of the way we’ve designed our living/working arrangements. But, unless we have some majorly disruptive technology that works AND can scale, no way will Americans drive like they do today. In 15 years, I speculate the vast majority of Miami households (households, not individuals) will use public transit daily and cars will be either plug in electrics along the Shai Agassi/Better Place model or sub compact diesels.

    I think one reason people don’t take transit (even when its routes are utopia for their particular situation) is that they take it one or two times and get turned off. Transit bureaucracies are necessarily fixated on big ticket items of $10 million+. But its the micro problems that frustrate/infuriate that keep people off transit. Fixing the micro problems would do the most to bring people to transit and bring them now. Here’s one micro problem: Tri-Rail’s shuttle buses have no designated stops, so unless you’re a regular user, there’s no way to get picked up by the Tri-Rail shuttle. There’s at least 100 micro problems in the Broward, Miami Dade and Tri-Rail systems.

    One last thing, if you think James Howard Kunstler is a “doomer”, check out Chris Martenson at the Commonwealth Club (basically what Kunstler says, but more encompassing):
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/chris-martenson-oil-water/id296762605?i=80466865

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