A Painful Lesson

Reader Contribution by Staff
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The clock keeps ticking, the oil keeps gushing, and I am struggling to stay focused on my house (flooded basement, no air-conditioning, fallen tree limbs) amidst one of the worst environmental disasters in American history. Despite the house chaos, I recognize that I am in such a better place than folks in the Gulf of Mexico. My job is secure, my landscape is (relatively) unsullied, my small world is unchanged.

But I know things will never be the same. All the work I have done throughout the last few years — encouraging people to reconsider their relationships with the environment, suggesting ways to curb our addiction to oil — has taken on a new urgency. So today, on Day 58, I write this post assuming little will change by the time you read this on Day 62. I am asking you to please rethink many aspects of your life: the way you get around your town, the amount of plastic you use, the kinds of produce you purchase in the grocery store, the companies in which you are invested. Petroleum is likely soaked into every one of these lifestyle choices.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States consumes nearly 19.5 million barrels — or 819 million gallons — of oil each day, almost one-fourth of global consumption. A 2003 EIA study estimated there were about 41 billion barrels of unrecovered oil in the Gulf region. Offshore drilling in the Gulf would have recovered enough oil to satisfy our thirst for roughly six years.

Six years.

This is fuzzy math. As technology improves, estimates of how much oil exists and how much oil can be extracted fluctuate. But the logic behind offshore drilling is even fuzzier. How did such a potentially (now actually) devastating extraction method become not only acceptable, but encouraged? How many years will it take to restore all this ecological and economic damage?

Oceana’s Senior Campaign Director Jackie Savitz called in from the Gulf to give me a better sense of what she’s seeing on the ground. In the audio interview below (edited by Jessica Sain-Baird), Jackie explains the challenges for clean-up crews, the ecological ramifications of chemical dispersants, and the ways in which we can use this painful lesson to create better practices and policies that will wean us off oil and lead us to authentic energy independence.

For more insights, follow me on Twitter @simransethi.


Photo courtesy of Suzannah Evans, Oceana

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