our view

How soon we forget

Americans have mixed feelings about offshore oil drilling. After the recent and ongoing BP oil spill that is disastrously affecting the shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, those indecisions should end.

We don’t like to pay more at the gas pump than we have to. And, yes, we too cringe at our nation’s reliance upon foreign oil. But situations like the BP oil spill remind us of our duty to take care of the land — and water — we call home.

We continue to read and hear media reports of 210,000 gallons of oil leaking into the ocean per day, but the real truth has yet to be uncovered. The reported range of uncertainty goes from 210,000 gallons to 2.3 million gallons a day, with some claiming even upwards of 3 million. At that rate, this accident will make the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill look like a drop in the proverbial bucket. But before we can truly calculate the magnitude of the current spill, we must look back at the damages in what was called the most devastating man-made environmental disaster ever.

Thousands of animals died immediately after the Exxon Valdez incident, including 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles and 22 orcas, as well as billions of salmon and herring eggs. Pink salmon populations declined, and sea otters and ducks showed higher death rates in following years after consuming prey from oil-contaminated soil. Despite what appeared to be expansive and expensive clean-up efforts, less than 10 percent of the oil was reported to be recovered. Exxon paid a price for its damages — kind of. After years of appeals and arguments, the oil company was ordered to pay punitive damages of $507.5 million. The damage to the environment, however, is immeasurable.

The White House has been appropriately chastised for not acting aggressively enough on the BP spill, with Pres. Obama sounding too much like George Bush in his remarks. Amidst criticism, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated in a news conference on Sunday that the government would keep its “boot on BP’s neck.”

We support the administration bringing out the boot, but we suggest aiming lower. CV

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