Vail Valley Voices: Blame us all for that oil spill |

Vail Valley Voices: Blame us all for that oil spill

Cassie Pence
Vail, CO, Colorado

As heavy crude oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico, and now washes into Louisiana’s precious wetlands, blanketing everything in its path in a black cloak like the Grim Reaper’s, I can’t help but think that this is not at all what I pictured when President Obama promised hope and change during the 2008 election.

Now, I am a relentless optimist, a bonafide Obama baby, but this spill is a catastrophic example of incompetence and corruption among the U.S. government and the oil industry. It is indeed exactly what Obama promised wouldn’t happen — business as usual — even down to the finger-pointing.

Here’s a replay of the blame game so far: At first, the three major players in the oil sector and spill — British Petroleum, Transocean and Halliburton — set the cross-hairs on each other.

Trans-ocean, which owns the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded on April 20, denies any responsibility because it leased the rig to BP. But BP says it’s Transocean’s fault because the company was in charge of safety in the drilling operations. Halliburton, charged with the task of building the casing around the well and its valves, equally blames BP and Transocean.

Then the U.S. government had its turn at the end of the blame gun’s barrel. Internal government investigations, along with scientists who have since abandoned their post with the agency, blame the Minerals Mangement Service, a sector of the Interior Department, for failing to get some environmental permits to approve drilling in the gulf and ignored objections from scientists in order to keep those projects on schedule.

More recently, as the amount of black ooze spewing continues to grow, the scientific community criticized the U.S. government again, specifically the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and for not releasing data about where oil is moving below the surface of the gulf. Scientists are also saying the Obama administration is allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope.

The National Wildlife Federation concurs and told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that BP had not been adequately forthcoming with information on the spill.

As for Obama, he’s mad at Senate Republicans because twice now they have voted against the Democratic plan to raise the liability limit of moey that companies responsible for oil spills should pay.

And in a very unlikely finger-pointing target, Rush Limbaugh says the Sierra Club should pay for the spill because it was the environmental group that drove the oil producers off the land and into the water.

But I have an even more unlikely group to mark: me, you, the American people.

Sure, I blame us because we are the world’s largest consumer of oil, creating the demand for off-shore drilling, although most of American’s oil is used by the Pentagon.

And yes, I feel the public shares a lack of enthusiasm, in general, to protect our environment, including the conservation of oil.

Most of us right now are more concerned with the bottom line of our economy, even though the environment is our true bottom line — being connected to everything we make, sell and buy. But that is a topic for another column.

The primary reason I blame citizen America is because I think we have lost control of our government to business interests due to an epidemic of apathy and a drought of quality community leaders. Of course, there are passionate people out there and leaders who are marching a movement, but not enough. We need more people with that can-do revolutionary panache.

So the next time conversations turn to politics and current affairs, and the usual gripes are aired — “The spill is horrible, oil companies should pay” or “Morons are running this country” — respond simply with this: “Well, what are we going to do about it?” And plan one action you are going to take to help remedy whatever situation has you fired up.

You don’t need to set a building ablaze, like what’s going on in Thailand, but how about petitioning your work to install showers so more people will ride their bike to work? Or pick up the phone and call your senator to demand government’s focus on renewable energy. Calling your elected officials is one of the most effective things you can do to inspire change.

We are the people we’ve been waiting for. Don’t let apathy or the feeling of defeat sink this ship we call mother earth.

Cassie Pence can be reached at

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