Poisoned fisheries, spoiled beaches: Price of our addiction to petroleum

Oil washes ashore in Grand Isle, La., Friday, May 21, 2010.

Oil washes ashore in Grand Isle, La., Friday, May 21, 2010.

WASHINGTON — It’s the time of year when I start to think longingly of my favorite playground — the Florida Panhandle, with its sugary white beaches bordered by the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. By now, the weather is just right, the water warm, the breezes mild.

Oh, there’s one thing I forgot to mention — tar balls.  This year, beachgoers might be wading into oily gook generated by the catastrophic oil spill, which is spewing out 5,000 barrels of oil a day. Or 95,000 barrels a day. No one really knows. And no one knows how long it could take to plug the underwater well.

You’d think that a disaster unfolding as we watch, helplessly, would stir the chilly, polarized waters of Washington politics, perhaps churning up a sense of urgency over energy legislation. If anything illustrates the dangers of our addiction to petroleum, this metastasizing-by-the minute mess does just that.

But the strange business of politics doesn’t work as you might imagine. The Deepwater Horizon explosion seems to have had the opposite effect, blowing up the fragile compromise that seemed the best hope for a Senate bill this year.

John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spent several months in negotiations attempting to hammer out a proposal that would draw bi-partisan support. With a goal of reducing the gases that surround the planet and trap heat, the bill sets up a system for pricing carbon emissions. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050 (compared to 2005 levels).

It offers significant enticements to lure the support of various industries, including loans for nuclear power plants and incentives for the use of natural gas. It also supports the development of alternative fuels, which would reduce our dependence on petroleum.

But Graham abruptly withdrew from negotiations a few weeks ago, saying the Deepwater Horizon disaster required a “time-out.”  He noted that the accident has made it more difficult to get Democratic votes for expanded offshore drilling, which he believes is an essential part of any comprehensive energy bill. (After the oil rig explosion, Kerry and Lieberman rewrote portions of the bill dealing with offshore drilling, sharply limiting operations in some areas.) That aside, it’s also true that Graham was not having much luck persuading his Republican colleagues to support the bill.

Despite Graham’s withdrawal, Kerry insists that the energy bill, which he and Lieberman unveiled earlier this month, “has a huge amount of support. . .Everybody is uncomfortable with a little something, but that’s a sign of a good bill.” He pointed out that several energy company executives have signed on. So has energy investor T. Boone Pickens, a former arch-enemy who contributed to the “Swift-boat” ads that helped to sink Kerry’s presidential campaign.

But Kerry’s unlikely alliance with Pickens isn’t enough. Without Republican votes to end a threatened filibuster, the Senate bill goes nowhere. (The House passed an energy bill last summer.)

Nor does the bill have the backing of the Deep South energy giant, the Southern Company., parent company to Georgia Power. A Southern Company spokesman called the legislation “a major improvement” over the House bill, which passed last summer, but said the company is “withholding judgment.”

Kerry says he believes Graham will back the bill eventually. He also expects industry executives — many of whom see his bill as a preferred alternative to tougher regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency — to persuade Republicans to sign on.  “My hope is these groups are going to reach out to their senators,” Kerry told me last week.

Meanwhile, on the Florida Panhandle, restaurateurs and innkeepers brace for cancellations. The state’s tourism officials are fighting back, with a public relations campaign (partly financed by BP) to persuade beachgoers that everything is normal. “We’re fighting hysterical hype here as well as the spill,” tourism industry spokesman Carol Dover told Time magazine.

So far, weather and wind have helped to keep the slick away from Florida’s beaches, although experts say oil has already drifted into the Gulf’s “loop current,” which could carry it around the Keys and northward to Georgia’s coast. How bad must it get for our politicians to start reducing the country’s dependence on petroleum?

110 comments Add your comment


May 21st, 2010
5:38 pm

Here is the official Obama Whitehouse response site. It shows you how to sue those evil oil companies.

We have a bunch of bottom-feeders in the whitehouse.


Sarah Peabrain

May 21st, 2010
5:43 pm

Spill Baby Spill!


May 21st, 2010
5:53 pm

We’ll get a change from the politicians when they see enough votes to keep them in office. No votes, no changes.

marie moe

May 21st, 2010
6:16 pm

It’s all God’s fault.


May 21st, 2010
6:20 pm

While I agree that our addiction to petroleum is part of the problem, there is another part that should be recognized: greed. It is possible to drill safely, if greed does not force cutting corners while drilling and drilling in places where it is beyond the present state of safe technology. It appears that the Gulf disaster it the result of both.


May 21st, 2010
6:28 pm

Doesn’t matter how much we decrease our dependency, foreign oil goes first. That would take forever, and actually would never happen. If it did though, we would still be drilling at least as much as we do now, in fact, I would say more.

Until non petrol autos are reasonably priced, we will always need to drill.

PS- you suck goat privates for banning me for different philosophies, you racist Marxist- your pal, Javy


May 21st, 2010
6:30 pm

Oops forgot, sent from my iPhone


May 21st, 2010
6:39 pm

Actually, we could stop drilling altogether and not much would happen. I almost fell down laughing when I heard Mitch McConnell on Meet the Press state that if we stopped Gulf drilling gasoline would cost $14/gallon. No wonder we have problems when we have such ignorants in high positions in Congress.


May 21st, 2010
6:44 pm



May 21st, 2010
6:47 pm

Being completely dependent on foreign oil is not just stoopid, but also very hypocritical. We could only pray that $14 gas is the worst thing that could come from that scenario.


May 21st, 2010
6:51 pm

The effect of not drilling at all domestically would be at most a few cents on gallon of gas. There is a good reason not to be completely dependent on foreign oil, even if we reduced the consumption dramatically, but stating such falsehood as McConnell did just shows his ignorance.

not on my watch

May 21st, 2010
7:38 pm

Mail a sponge to BP USA headquarters:

28100 Torch Parkway
Warrenville, IL
United States

Tommy Maddox

May 21st, 2010
7:44 pm

I tried stuffing a trilobite in my gas tank. No good results.

Reality Check

May 21st, 2010
8:50 pm

This is all the fault of environmentalists. If we were allowed to drill on land, then we would not have to drill in the Gulf. And by the way, have you noticed how many other countries are drilling in the Gulf? Now will they stop because the USA has? Don’t bet on it.

We are not addicted to petroleum. We are addicted to the quality of life it provides us. If you want to lower our quality of life, please start with yourself. I will be sure to follow you (sic).


May 21st, 2010
9:08 pm

This is all the fault of environmentalists. If we were allowed to drill on land…

Yeah—because nothing bad ever happens on land. :roll:

Mention the name of the corporation BP to Scott West and two words immediately come to mind: Beyond Prosecution.

West was the special agent-in-charge at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division who had been probing alleged crimes committed by BP and the company’s senior officials in connection with a March 2006 pipeline rupture at the company’s Prudhoe Bay operations in Alaska’s North Slope that spilled 267,000 gallons of oil across two acres of frozen tundra – the second largest spill in Alaska’s history – which went undetected for nearly a week.

West was confident that the thousands of hours he invested into the criminal investigation would result in felony charges against BP and the company’s senior executives who received advanced warnings from dozens of employees who worked at its Prudhoe Bay facility that unless immediate steps were taken to repair the severely corroded pipeline, a disaster on par with that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill was only a matter of time.

In fact, West, who spent nearly two decades at the EPA’s criminal division, was also told the pipeline was going to rupture – about six months before it happened.

Jeff Fryer.

May 21st, 2010
9:28 pm

The oil spill is a perfect Rorschach test for the blog hosts. Each AJC blog host has approached the spill as if it were a different creature.

Bob Barr sees the giant sucking sound of failed big government trade policies, (or Chicken Little).

Cynthia Tucker sees a spot on an x-ray; a symptom of larger disease; America as a victim of itself and of the insatiable souls trying to live the American Dream.

Jay Bookman sees the spill as either a pool of uncoddled trolls; or as an irresistible opportunity to spell-check BPs news releases. He’s holding big oil’s feet to the fire with some real tuff-cub fact checking. Can big oil survive such a vicious news hound like him? Good thing for BP he never comes with his own scoop.

Jim Wooten thinks he sees the black magic created by a voodoo witchdoctor. He’s gonna pin this on Obama, just like Rush wishes it so.

( BTW: Brit Hume thinks it looks like the Gulf. )

Kyle WIngfield sees a new synthetic life form, (no, not a CDO). He thinks the oil slick looks like a 3-D porn video of an orgy involving octopussies, chocolate-flavored KY Jelly, and kelp. That’s very revealing too. Freud would probably proposition him..


not on my watch

May 21st, 2010
9:58 pm

Jeff: What about the guys who blog about them Dawgs?


May 21st, 2010
10:10 pm

I prayed about the oil spill and God told me that it is all the fault of the liberals and progressives. He wants us to repent and to stop the march away from conservatism. He said that we should all vote for republicans.

So say-ith God, so say-ith Rush and Jim Wooten.

Hootinanny Yum Yum

May 21st, 2010
10:31 pm

Alright! Arizona’s enforcement of immigration laws is a two-fer…

As a result of boycotts, illegal immigrants in the service and hospitality industries stand to suffer the most. They’ll lose their jobs and go back home.

Wow. Who’d a thunk it!


May 21st, 2010
10:53 pm

Plug it and clean it up just like we should do the border and illegal aliens !!!

Then “drill baby drill” !

godless heathen

May 21st, 2010
11:20 pm

I think CT and others are wishing that this oil spill makes it to the beaches. Like Rush wanting Obama to fail.

[...] The Deepwater Horizon explosion seems to have had the opposite effect, blowing up the fragile compromise that seemed the best hope for a Senate bill this … See all stories on this topic [...]

David Granger

May 22nd, 2010
1:30 am

You’re half right, Cynthia.
Spoiled beaches and poisoned sea-life IS the price for our:
1. Addiction to petroleum, AND
2. The refusal by all the giggle-sissy liberals to allow us to drill in more accessible areas such as ANWR…because that would give the conservatives a symbolic “win” and they’d get what they want.

We won’t even go back to nuclear power, which the gig-sis-libs squealed and squawled and wet their britches in opposition to.

Joel Edge

May 22nd, 2010
5:35 am

Give it a rest, CT. You’re nagging.


May 22nd, 2010
7:45 am

and our “addiction” home ownership caused the housing bubble. Americans are a short-sighted, ignorant nation. It seems to me Ben Franklin’s worst fears have come to pass, as we have traded our (financial) freedom for (domestic) security – our beloved cars, homes, air travel, etc. the double whammy – in allowing ourselves to become indentured servants to Big Oil and Big Banking, we have also surrendered out Constitutional freedoms by virtue of a foreign policy which requires us access to foreign oil. were this a playground game, I’d suggest a “do over” only I openly admit, I don’t have a clue how to do it over. Perhaps a new (re-written) Constitution.


May 22nd, 2010
7:46 am

Instead of pointing fingers, lets clean it up. Why not send the thugs from the SEIU that bussed themselves out to protest that banker and stormed his property and terrorized his kids, they need something to do. I will take Exxon and BP in my world over those clueless thugs that the left has no problem with.


May 22nd, 2010
8:29 am

Bob, this isn’t a left/right issue. It’s a supply and demand issue. ExxonMobil and BP are doing what oil companies do, and our weakness rewards their behavior. I am not convinced that “setting prices on carbon emissions” or any solution designed to save the planet (regulations) will mean anything. this is an economic issue, not a political or environmental issue. If you believe we truly have a “free market” (I do not believe we do), $15/gallon gasoline is the way to go. At some point Americans will refuse to pay for the “freedom” of the automobile, and they will realize their role in a true free market (as consumers, not junkies). AND, guess what? the environment will “win” as the amount of greenhouse gasses and America’s (latest boogeyman) carbon footprint will be reduced. Simply removing the yolk placed on us by ExxonMobil and replacing it with one placed on us by the EPA or the Al Gore’s of the world doesn’t really accomplish anything. I think there are some (on the left) who, when saying “live within ones means) are not suggesting re-distribution of wealth, or that we should not enjoy the benefits of technology, but rather, accepting that when a larger interest “owns” the technology or the means to regulate our lives, we are not “free”. As I posted earlier, it can be a challenge to be a consumer in today’s market, but as the saying goes, “freedom is not free” and freedom extends beyond the law.

Divide and Conquer

May 22nd, 2010
8:39 am

…and the cure for our so-called addiction is what?

$5/gallon tax on gas?
10% surcharge on all other petroleum products?

Please tell us, Cynthia. I know it’s a little more work than throwing out some hyperbole, but you can do it.

MarkV has it dead on. It’s all about greed. Well, that and a lack of accountability. Who’s going to jail over this? Anyone? Anyone at all?
I’m sure there will be plenty of hot air expelled by the pampered gas bags on Capitol Hill, but that’s about it.

Then I read Garrison Keillor’s column about the Senate Spouses Dinner, and I am once again reminded that the US Congress is just one big party of bipolar friends; owned and operated by the elite.


May 22nd, 2010
9:05 am

If your beloved big government and the subsidized cronies did not cap damages on big oil and other industries, these guys would never risk a shortcut for safety or potential damages like this. Put them all on notice that there is no cap on damages, no bankruptcies out of repairing any and all public and private harm caused and let them drill wherever they want to drill. You will suddenly have them drilling in much better and safer ways and you’ll never see a spill of any magnitude again. You environmental nut-jobs would cause millions of deaths and much more suffering from diseases just to kill off the free market and individualism. Wake up and understand that when we each pursue our own self interest and are free from government intrusion, we are all better off.

david wayne osedach

May 22nd, 2010
9:05 am

BP will end up paying only a fraction to those who have lost their livelihoods because of the oils spill. Tourism and fishing will be gone. Just gone.

Gator Joe

May 22nd, 2010
9:38 am

If this disaster is an act of God, and I don’t believe it is, then perhaps it is a severe warning about the dangers of offshore drilling. More likely, this avoidable disaster is the end result of the “anything goes” permanent defilement of nature for limited, short-term purposes. For those of us who are believers, and those who are not, there are two ways to approach how we treat (God-given) Nature. It is ours to respect, use carefully and sustainably (My view) or…. Consume its [Nature's] resources without regard for damage and destruction of the environment.


May 22nd, 2010
10:43 am

If the spill and government response had happened during the Bush administration (think Katrina), you would be apoplectic. It would be proof that Bush and his oil buddies wanted to kill us all. Since Obama gets none of the blame from you, it is apparent that your liberal bias has utterly, totally blinded you. You’ve lost any moral authority to lecture anybody on anything.


May 22nd, 2010
10:48 am

Advice from sea…stock up on shrimp now!
And lock you doors Congressman Grayson from FL says repubs are like Al Qaeda terrorists
The Sunshine state should be proud of him.


May 22nd, 2010
12:13 pm

Cap and trade will make Al Gore a billionaire like his buddies George Soros and Warren Buffet. He has a vested interest in cap and trade legislation to be passed. That isn’t the way to fix this problem. Cynthia, would you rather all of us common American’s ride bicycles, stop heating and cooling our houses? I don’t get it! I never will! All this nonsense is liberty stealing. That is all it is, 2 oil rig disasters in forty years, 2, yes, it is bad but everyone is over reacting here. If solar and wind were the solutions now, we’d already be using them. Guess what, it doesn’t! It isn’t always windy, and the Sun doesn’t shine 24/7. All you have to do is do a little research, Spain has whole committed to “green energy” and it’s not working for them. We can’t afford to subsidize green energy, we are 14 trillion is debt and growing. Get a clue, we are going to destroy ourselves with stupid policies! Cheap fuel is better for everyone, it benefits everyone! We have plenty of oil and if used properly will help us all prosper.


May 22nd, 2010
12:23 pm

This wasn’t an accident in the real sense of the word. There are enough redundancies in the offshore drilling process to prevent this, but BP decided to roll the dice when certain failures happened. When you do that and you lose, you have to pay the price. If we make them pay the price to clean up this mess without any government bailout, the industry will learn to be responsible…not because they care, but because it affects the bottom line. Trying to shift the blame onto the general public for living a semi-comfortable life is misplaced venom.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

May 22nd, 2010
1:40 pm

I respectfully believe consumers should not be subsidizing the lifestyles and preferences of those who elect to live on the various coasts. Like hurricanes, that is a risk. Similarly I believe taxpayers should not subsidize inefficient forms of energy. Quite the opposite, the government could accomplish much good in the area by abolishing “environmental action statements” on nuclear plants. But the leftists will continue to throw all of the obstacles they can to prevent efficiency and low cost energy production, because efficiency and low-cost energy production are anathema to their religion.


May 22nd, 2010
1:54 pm

Cheap food, lack of famine, magnitudes higher standard of living, these are some of the costs of our addiction to oil.


May 22nd, 2010
4:13 pm

Jimmy, I don’t know where you buy your food, but it is not cheap. As the price of oil goes up, so do the price of groceries. and as far as famines go, between farm subsidies and manmade disasters as we are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico, let’s just say we have “managed” or “regulated” famines. Don’t you see that ALL phases of our economy rely on oil. “higher standard of living?” As long as you can stay ahead of inflation, you’ll be fine. You must work for an oil company.


May 22nd, 2010
5:27 pm

It would be nice if there were some grown-ups out there who could stop the leak, clean it up, and let my family enjoy their brief summer vacation at the beach. All this finger pointing and playing the blame game is getting old.


May 22nd, 2010
5:32 pm

While Obama blames BP, let’s look at the real responsibility here. These ‘lands’ are actually the people’s under the jurisdiction of the Federal government. The federal government leases out access to drill on OUR land or waters. Just like a rental, who is ultimately responsible for what goes on at this property? The federal government. If the government allows for drilling of oil on public lands, shouldn’t the federal government take precautions and have plans to react to disasters of this magnitude rather than sit back and say “BP better do something or else we’ll fine them”. Who was responsible for the real damage from Katrina? The federal government and the failure of THEIR levees and THEIR pumping system. This is the same federal government that liberals want America to rely on for not only healthcare but everything else.

I sure hope that in Cynthia’s rant on dependence on petroleum she is helping the ’cause’ and not using plastics and endless other petroleum based products besides gasoline.

As someone else mentioned, we have Cuba allowing for offshore drilling contracts right off the coast of Florida. One spill there and the entire eastern seaboard is susceptible to damage from the Gulf Stream currents. But yet I do not hear any calls for Obama to stop his new pal Raul from drilling and allowing others to drill. Perhaps liberal activist Sean Penn can convince his new buddy Hugo from drilling off the coast of Venezuela. Or Calderon, the man we allow to trash OUR country in OUR Congress, can be convinced of stopping offshore drilling near California and the Gulf as well.


May 22nd, 2010
6:49 pm

Here we see from Red the usual anti-government nonsense. Oil rigs are not a rental property, but even there, if a renter causes damage, it is his or her fault. When a private companies cause damage, suddenly it is not their fault, it is the fault of the government that it has not prevented them from doing the damage. What a garbage.


May 22nd, 2010
8:06 pm

When a private companies cause damage, suddenly it is not their fault, it is the fault of the government that it has not prevented them from doing the damage.

And now the teabaqqers are quick to point out that Obama was slow to respond with equipment and authority all the while denying him that authority saying that it’s not in the Constitution.


May 22nd, 2010
8:39 pm

WTF is wrong with you, “Red” (Socialist?), Where are all the “capitalists” when it comes to LIABILITY INSURANCE? every freaking property owner in this nation assumes liablity when he/she/it TAKES OWNERSHIP of an ooil rig, home, autmobile, or business. AND, if the oil leases/off shore fields are government property, why I am paying $3/gallon at the pump? YOU FOOLS DON’T GET IT; we are not “free” we are worker bees and drones. Sell your car and sell your home, and you’ll be free (excuse me, you won’t. You’ll still have to pay for electricity and internet service – unless you’re logging on from a library – in which case, the rest of us are paying).

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 22nd, 2010
8:59 pm

You have to be a pretty hardcore socialist to think that free people deciding to purchase electricity or internet service or a car are some kind of slaves. The slaves are the ones who have the fruits of their labor taken from them by Democrats to purchase the votes of parasites, union losers, and government drones.

A "Voice"

May 22nd, 2010
10:26 pm

What is the difference in being addicted to oil and being addicted to government handout programs, unions, sex, crime, drugs, alcohol, cheating, etc.


May 22nd, 2010
11:32 pm

Good point voice.

Kramcrap, you are hypocrite, an an f’n liar at that! Double standard pos.

Jeff Fryer.

May 23rd, 2010
7:53 am

Today’s Homily:

The oil spill brings out the partisan poison better than any drillibuster since Mr. Smith went to Washington. Conservatives branded environmentalists as over-reactionaries not so much crying “the sky is falling” as “the floor is rising”. The Religious Right couldn’t see the spill for the krill. Britt Hume went full Doubting Thomas, “Until I put my hands in the oil, and rub it in my hair, and lube y car with it….” It would take a miracle for him to acknowledge that “a few dead fish” became thousands. The Christian Right even brought out nuclear power as the alternative to offshore drilling. I guess you could say that they’re Bohr Again. (sorry).

Meanwhile, as the oil migrates ashore, and the Gulf States absorb the extent of the catastrophe, it will be interesting to see if voters remember the Right’s filtered response.


May 23rd, 2010
8:44 am


It is you people who go after Christians that have no credibility. You might even be able to have an argument worth considering if you hadn’t thrown in the word “Christian”.

The majority of Americans are for drilling. I’m sure there are some wafflers out there that are leaning a different way because of recent events but the fact remains that we can not be reliant on our enemies oil.

100 years of conservative and liberal leadership got us addicted to oil and unfortunately there is no quick fix. If so, your beloved Obama and his liberal majority would have done something about it already. Instead, they (and you) know that there is nothing that can be done immediately to resolve the problem, that we are waiting for a technological solution, so they (and you) just use oil as a political attack tool. You are all opportunists and the reason why is that you have no ideas of your own. Deflect, don’t solve… that’s the liberal motto.


May 23rd, 2010
9:21 am

Li’l Barry, you have combined two of my poits; we are probably more indentured servants than outright slaves, but if you would like to perform an experiment, don’t pay your federal and state income tax (assuming you do not live in NH or FL or other state without individual income tax) and don’t pay your property tax. See what the IRS, State of GA and Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, etc. do with YOUR “private” property? Seems to me your definition of “slave” fits nicely (the fruits of ones labor for the benefit of others). Did you see where GA leads the nation in terms of the Prision Industrial Complex? over a $1 billion a year to monitor, feed, house, …ahem, rehabilitate criminals. Now, I know rapists, murderers and pedophiles should be incarcerated (actually, I think they should be executed – “one strike and you’re out” in my book), but anywhere from 25-40% of the people in prison (or on probation) are the resul of the “war on drugs” your federal, local and state tax dollars at work generating a larger tax bill. Do the math.
You are correct, purchasing a computer or internet service and the electricity needed to operate a computer is a personal “choice” but when somebody else controls the supply/price of the resources needed to produce energy, I don’t know that we are “free”. Back to taxes: if we are “free” to own a home or rent, or work as a truck driver, professional athlete, salesman or school teacher, BUT regardless of our chosen profession, our income (and homes, cars, etc.)is the “property” of the state, you tell me if we are “free”? As I said, “feedom is not free” because the moment we gained independence from King George, we surrendered independence to Constitutional Republic of the United States of America. It may be a better deal than we had, and it may be a better deal than most in 2010, but it is not freedom, not even close. Perhaps we are not “addicted to freedom” so much as we have a dyrfunctional and co-dependent relationship (what some call enabling) relationship with our government, which claims to offer us freedom, but ultimately enslaves us for its benefit (not ours).

So, my friend, under the flags some like to wear, or the “free market capitialist” name-tags on some lapels, we’re all “socialists”. for all his flaws (and there are many) I believe Barrack Obama believes in a “government of (all) the people”, not just special interests. And I would further admit it may not be possible to run a Constitutional Republic without an “alpha male” to lead the pack, because no matter who leads the pack, more often than not, half the nation didn’t vote for him. And finally, the fact that we are in a “pack” suggests that we have “traded freedom for security”. I could go on forever, but I have to mow my lawn (manual rotary lawn mower, but I do use a gas-operated weed whacker)


May 23rd, 2010
12:33 pm

What is the difference in being addicted to oil and being addicted to government handout programs, unions, sex, crime, drugs, alcohol, cheating,cheap money, high risk investing trickle-down, fraud, greed, etc.