JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Oil spills do not discriminate. They can equally pollute expensive real estate as well as low income communities, rendering the property uninhabitable for decades.
Once upon a time, before the oil lobbyists bribed congressional representatives for seizing oil from offshore drilling, Santa Barbara and Avila were postcard perfect beaches on the coast of California. The sea and the long white sandy beaches shimmered in the quiet sunlight. No doubt about it, California's central coast landscapes are breathtaking.
Then it happened, in 1969, Santa Barbara got hit with Union Oil's thick and gooey toxic oil spill. (see images). These pictures speak volumes. Two decades later, the quaint fisherman's wharf Avila beach was covered in oil from Unocal's broken pipeline, ruining expensive real estate property and businesses.
As for the BP Gulf oil spill-everyone is quite aware by now that the Gulf has been turned into a smelly oil pit, lifeless, ugly and a toxic destroyer to resort real estate, tourism, the fishing industry and all the romantic delights that we love about coastal lifestyles. Contrast that image to what the Gulf of Mexico was like before offshore oil drilling: pristine sands, crystal clear water bristling with sea-life and bird sanctuaries.
Recently, in a rare expose, CBS 60 Minutes and Katie Couric aired a shocking investigative report on how many massively destructive oil spills occur on a daily basis: What happened in Santa Barbara and Avila happens at least eighteen times a day across the country. We don't know about the perpetual and deadly natural gas explosions and oil spills because they go unreported in the mainstream press. People's lives are destroyed; their retirement dream homes become worthless overnight. The thick, crude poison kills rare birds, fish, and animals that depend on the land and water to survive. They died because the oil executives were too busy bankrolling their $70 billion a year tax-free profits instead of funding the necessary restoration work of upgrading eroding pipelines.
To paraphrase Rachel Maddow on corporate negligence: don't expect corporatists to give a damn; they care only about profits. Thus, it's the role of a "watchdog" government to make sure oil companies are maintaining and replacing eroded equipment, pipelines and machinery, to make sure that they pass real, not phony, safety regulations. But now that our government IS the oil industry, that's unlikely to happen. Newt Gingrich even went so far as to call for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency, what's left of it, anyway. Why U.S. politicians continue to pretend that they serve the public is beyond me. As for the process of hydrofracking for natural gas, congressional Democrats learned that millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals were injected into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009. What good is natural gas if it poisons our water?
If Gulf residents want oil spills to stop, then they must organize and protest against the oil industry and the government, the larger the demonstrations are-the better chance they have of winning. If they remain passive, expect more catastrophic oil spills. BOER already passed out a dozen more permits for deepwater drilling. BP's spill didn't change a thing. They have no way to stop deepwater oil spills.
Last night before falling asleep, I thought about the inconceivable trillion dollar deficit that was created from a decade of oil wars in the Middle East and Bush's corporate welfare tax breaks for billionaires, and it occurred to me that Nevada's desert could provide enough electricity for the mid-west with solar power. But instead, this government chose to use weapons of mass destruction in order to occupy oil territory for a polluting energy source that is literally killing our environment and us.
California is the leading state for renewable energy production because Californians are fed up with the oil industry. Even Republican candidates dare not mention offshore oil drilling or else they'll go down in smoke as did Meg Whitman. In 2010, General Electric spent nearly $60 million on Prop 16 to monopolize the energy industry to no avail-Californians voted it down. If we can do it-so can more states. At Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, the College of Architecture has one of the best renewable energy design programs in the country. Students understand that oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear are harmfully toxic, archaic forms of energy that cannot be sustained for their current future. This is happening now-and there's nothing the industrialists can do to stop the growing trend.
Recommended reading: Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill (April 2011) and The Tyranny of Oil (2008) by Antonia Juhasz