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Gulf Coast Oil Leak: Environmental Catastrophe vs. U.S. Independence

May 28, 2010
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Photo Credit: Eric Gay, AP from MSNBC.


I’m an ardent fan of the great outdoors. I run and bike on nature trails. I’m the family recycling nut. My favorite vacation destinations are Zion National Park, The Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, and Bryce Canyon. I love lakes, rivers and the ocean.

Career wise, my first job with BNP Media was as an editor on Solar Engineering & Contractingmagazine.  I am a big fan of our two all green brands, Environmental Design + Construction and Sustainable Facility.

So you can appreciate why I was distressed to learn via MSNBC that the oil spill in the Gulf Coast is bigger than the slick caused by the Exxon Valdez (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37353392/ns/gulf_oil_spill/?GT1=43001) and is now the worst in U.S. history.

At first, media coverage focused on the fiery accident and tragic death of the oil workers. Soon after, coverage shifted to the ongoing environmental impact, accusations of poor emergency response, and who is to blame. Federal support of offshore drilling has turned into efforts to curtail offshore drilling.

I certainly understand why environmentalists are outraged. No one wants to see such damage, some of which might take decades to reverse. Fisherman, shrimpers, and resorts are being severely impacted.

Clearly, this oil spill is a mega disaster.

And yet, I am hoping that our righteous anger doesn’t cause elected officials to make emotional or political decisions that could hurt the U.S. in other ways. Banning offshore drilling would lead to greater dependence on foreign sources and higher prices for gas and oil products, thus increasing the cost of doing business in the U.S.

A good first step is to take an analytical approach to this mess. So I was encouraged when I read this oil leak analysis (www.economist.com/science-technology/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16160853&source=features_box_main) published by The Economist and the steps BP Oil is taking to fix it. It was good to see coverage that focused on cause-and-effect, rather than name-calling and finger-pointing.

I know what some of you are thinking. Why not simply ramp up our energy conservation efforts and develop alternative energy sources so we can be done with off shore drilling?

This approach was popular in the early 1980s when the Carter administration set a goal of generating 20% of the country’s energy through renewable sources. Unfortunately, the conversation rates of those sources were not cost-competitive then, and as far as I can tell, most are not competitive on a major scale today. I wish they were.

This blog reaches engineers, designers, manufacturers, architects, consultants, contractors and many other pros who are all smarter and more technically savvy than me. I would love to hear your reactions to the oil spill and how we should move forward.

Post your comments to this blog or email me at fauscht@bnpmedia.
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