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Rob Perks’s Blog

As the Oil Gushes, America's Security Leaks Away

Rob Perks

Posted May 27, 2010 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Moving Beyond Oil, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, Solving Global Warming

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Maybe the "top kill" finally plugged the leak.  Too early to tell.  Even so, what everyone suspected all along seems true now -- that BP woefully underestimated the flow rate of the Gulf gusher.  Government scientists are saying that the spill rate was more than five times BP's insistent claim of roughly 210,000 gallons per day -- meaning the actual amount of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico could already exceed 39 million gallons.  Unbelievable.  This "oil-ocaust" blows the Exxon-Valdez disaster (11 million gallons of oil spilled) out of the water.  In fact, if the highest leak estimate of between 500,000 - 800,000 gallons a day is accurate, this will not only be the worst spill in U.S. history, but also one of the worst in human history (based on this list.) 

As David Roberts noted in Grist, no matter what happens to stem the flow of oil, the damage to marshes, coral, and marine life is done.  The Gulf of Mexico is fast becoming an ecological and economic dead zone and there's no real way to undo it.  His point is well-taken:

Once we know that accidents can be catastrophic and irreversible, it becomes clear that there is no margin of error.  We're operating a brittle system, unable to contain failure and unable to recover from it.  Consider how deepwater drilling will look in that new light.

The thing is, we're already operating in those circumstances in a thousand different ways -- it's just that the risks and the damages tend to be distributed and obscured from view.  They're not thrust in our face like they are in the Gulf.  We don't get back the land we destroy by mining.  We don't get back the species lost from deforestation and development.  We don't get back islands lost to rising seas.  We don't get back the coral lost to bleaching or the marine food chains lost to nitrogen runoff.  Once we lose the climatic conditions in which our species evolved, we won't get them back either.

We're doing damage as big as the Gulf oil spill every day, and there's no fixing it. Humanity has grown in power, wealth, and appetite to the point that there is no more margin of error anywhere.  We're on a knife's edge, facing the very real possibility that for our children, all the world may be one big Gulf of Mexico, inexorably and irreversibly deteriorating.

I blogged yesterday about the BP oil catastrophe being a wake-up call that we need to make a clean break from our deadly addiction to dirty energy.  (President Obama just said the same thing in his press conference:  "If nothing else this disaster should serve as a wakeup call that it’s time to move forward on [energy] legislation.”)  There are myriad good reasons to do this.  I'll bring up just one: our national security is at stake.

Today, VoteVets.org launched a massive $1.5 million television and web ad campaign that connects the BP oil spill in the Gulf to America's national security.  The ad features a veteran who served with the Louisiana National Guard, cleaning up the massive spill, speaking from a polluted shoreline of Louisiana.  In the ad, Louisiana resident and veteran Evan Wolf makes the point that the necessity of using the Guard to help clean up efforts takes the military away from critical national security missions.  Indeed, over 11,000 Guardsmen have been sent to the Gulf to help with the clean up.

“When I signed on with the National Guard, I did it to help protect America from our enemies...Not to clean up an oil company’s mess here in the Gulf of Mexico," Wolf says in the ad.  "But America needs a new mission.  Because whether it’s deep-drilling oil out here, or spending a billion dollars a day on oil from our enemies overseas, our dependence on oil is threatening our national security.”

"Some folks in Washington say now is not the time for clean American power.  I got to ask - if not now, when?" he closes.

Watch the ad.  Spread the word. We've no time to lose.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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