Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do Silver Linings Exist?

After several weeks and millions of barrels of oil spilt, Barack Obama addressed the American public last night from the oval office about his administration's response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While it may still be too early to fully assess the damage caused by the uncertain amount of oil that has leaked out of BP's Deepwater Horizon well and it may even be too early to determine who is ultimately responsible for what is sure to be the biggest environmental disaster in American history, it is not too early to begin to hope that the appropriate lessons are learned.

Much like the silver lining of the worst financial crisis in a generation was the fact that it would hopefully spur on much needed financial regulation and much in the same way that the current European fiscal crisis will hopefully bring with it increased financial awareness in what have been free-spending governments, the seemingly never-ending oil spill will hopefully usher in an era of increased environmental awareness. However, it is far from certain that any of the above-mentioned crises will result in anything more than band-aid solutions and political blame games. It is often remarked that a crisis should never be wasted - implying that along with tough times, opportunities often roll along. It is unfortunate that it is a characteristic of human nature that we are often only called into action after things take a turn for the worst but what is even more unfortunate is that problems are often never fixed, even after a disaster presents a perfect opportunity to do so.

In the specific case of the BP oil spill, what would constitute a reasonable outcome would be something along the lines of realizing the perils of relying so extensively on polluting fossil fuels and consequently taking steps towards moving away from such a dependence into cleaner, renewable and eventually cheaper sources of energy. However, what is more likely to happen is that BP will end up spending a lot of money cleaning up the oil spill, then cleaning up its image while the American government moves to ensure that its regulatory framework is better placed to ensure the safety and reliance of deep sea oil wells. Barack Obama's speech (in terms of content and tone) made a clear argument towards aligning the United State's energy policy in the direction of decreased oil dependence and increased renewable energy sources; however, only time will reveal which path was chosen.

1 comment:

  1. What you might have missed is the rather predictable way the crisis has turned into political fodder for the Americans and pundits watching the UK vs USA spate. Pension funds are in knots about their investment in BP and the clamouring for "compensation" seems to have turned the focus away from environmental concern. Perhpas that's just typical of politics and humans?