Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Gulf

I'm not a petroleum engineer, a geologist, a climatologist, or an economist, so take this for what it's worth.

This isn't a "spill." Spills are finite. This is a geyser of oil flowing at 5,000 barrels a day. It is already larger than the country of Jamaica. It isn't capped and the latest predictions are that capping it may take months.

The Gulf is in a box canyon formed by Florida, the southern central border of the US, and Mexico and Central America. Maybe some of the oil can dissipate out to sea, but most of it will come ashore. As it accumulates, it will affect not only the environment but also fisheries, canneries, and the entire Gulf seafood industry, tourism, land values, commercial shipping, and exports and imports dependent on every Gulf port, and everything else in a giant swath from the Yucutan to the Keys.

This, in turn, is bound to affect the stock market and the GDP. I don't pretend to know how it all works, but I'm thinking that whatever perils we faced as a nation before this catastrophe are about to be dwarfed unless this oil can be contained and sucked back up again. I'm thinking that we have no idea what the repercussions will be or how far out and up and down the food chain they will extend. I'm thinking that our national security, our retirement investments, and the daily cost of living all will be adversely affected. We just don't know by how much, or for how long, or whether these losses can ever be recaptured.

Call me Cassandra, I don't mind. But meanwhile, start thinking about how to protect your job and your savings. I don't see this ending well.

Will this latest corporate nuclear attack get Americans off our fat asses and into the streets? Who knows. But it seems to me we have a lot to protest, starting with the arrogance and indifference of BP, the probable incompetence of Halliburton, the indifference and complicity of several Congresses unwilling to regulate business even for the sake of national welfare, and other villains not as yet known.

I don't know where we go from here. My heart and prayers are with the Gulf and its people. God knows, they've had more than anybody ought to have to deal with. Can we put our military to good use, for a change? Can our businesses put profit in perspective, now, and devote as much energy to sustaining the commonwealth as to increasing their bottom lines? Will people get it that oil ain't the way, that offshore drilling embodies unacceptable risk, that once the ocean life and the fragile marshland ecosystems are gone, they're GONE?

Will anything change?