Unless you have been living under a rock or on an outer space adventure the past few weeks, you have undoubtedly heard about the tragic oil spill off of the Gulf of Mexico. 200,000 gallons of oil continue to flow into the sea as efforts to quell the flow of oil have been unsuccessful thus far.

In addition to the tragedy of the eleven men who lost their lives as the drill rig Deepwater Horizon sank into the Gulf on April 22nd,  worries continue to multiply about the long term negative effects this immense spill will have on the environment and its many inhabitants for weeks, months and years to come.

While history has taught us that oil spills such as this one come with dire consequences for the ecosystems surrounding the area of the spill, the long term damage created by this most recent spill remains to be seen. Immediate effects are beginning to become more crystallized, as Reuters is reporting that seven dolphins and over a hundred sea turtles have washed onto shore dead as what officials are assuming is a result of the oil spill.

Environmentalist, such as Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network, are quick to criticize the lack of information being offered about the damage being done to the environment as a result of this catastrophic spill.

Viles  states, “There’s a lot of concern now about the marine impact and we’re not getting a truly transparent response from NOAA(the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Resulting criticism concerning this disaster are not limited to NOAA or other groups one likely has never heard of before, but are  also being directed at President Barack Obama and his Administration, who in recent months announced plans to expand offshore drilling efforts in the United States.

The President,  after resolving  to temporarily suspend the development of  new offshore drilling locations pending  a government safety review of the drilling process,  asserted, “Let me be clear, I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security.” Even though this tragic oil spill highlights American unsustainable dependence on oil, it is not quite enough to move the administration to focus on weaning the country away from gas and petroleum based products.

Funnily enough -not so much in a “haha, this Garfield comic is a hoot!“ kind of way,  but in a more “Hmmm, that is an interesting coincidence” type  of way- on April 28th,  just days after the devastating Gulf spill,  the development of  the first wind farm offshore of the U.S was announced by Government officials.

This is not  to declare a massive, multi-tiered conspiracy is taking place.  The creation of this wind farm is a step in the right direction for the energy future of this country. Regardless of whether or not the timing of the announcement had anything to do with a skillful PR move in order to throw environmentalists a bone during this hugely criticized oil crisis, it still was a plan years in the making, so it is likely a happy coincidence. (She says as she reaches for the tinfoil to wrap around her over sized noggin’. I kid, I kid…or do I? DUN, DUN, DUN!)

Conspiracy theories aside, this wind farm alone will only act as a band aid on a gunshot wound, or a huge oil spill as it were. Halting offshore drilling until the oil slick clears is not enough.This tragic occurrence should not be swept under the table or downplayed.  This sinking oil rig may as well have been a huge blaring alarm clock- one that screeches endlessly and comes with a dangerous snooze button.

We can not afford any more snoozing;  putting off radical changes to the way we as a society treat the energy crisis for another 10 or 15 years because we are too lazy to think about it in the here and now. This is not a time to sleep in or to do what is easiest when we know what is right.

It is time to wake up and take action! We must roll out of bed and painfully pull ourselves into our reality. No matter what you think of driving or plastic bags, the truth is the planet simply does not contain enough oil to sustain the current culture’s lifestyle. We have to make some serious global changes in our energy, transportation, manufacturing and everyday lives. There is just no way around it and this oil spill is like a hotel wake up call to make these changes.

Sadly, like my affinity for stone-washed  jean chaps, the public at large does not appear to share in my opinion on the permanent halting of  the expansion  of offshore drilling efforts.  A recent telephone poll conducted by the Associated Press finds that American adults are unmoved by this latest tragedy in terms of their opinion of offshore drilling. A shocking 50 percent of those polled report still favoring offshore drilling, opposed to the 38 percent who disapprove.

I will be damned if I can not drive the three blocks to 7-11 for a Big Gulp, but it ain’t no skin off my back if a bunch of weirdo fish die.” – Some thirsty guy  driving a Hummer to 7-11. *(Quote may or may not be fictional.)

*It is.

Weaning ourselves off oil will not be an easy task. As a people we will need to learn to conserve energy- walk to 7-11 when that Big Gulp thirst hits you.  Heck, you can even roller blade- which, may I add, would look even cooler , if you sported some jean chaps on your stems while you bladed. Just sayin’.

As for the government, they need to take this alarm clock blaring in their ears as more than just a minor inconvenience that causes them to temporarily shelf foolish plans to expand offshore drilling  and make a real commitment to renewable energies that does not include amplifying our already gargantuan dependence on oil.

If real changes are not made the next alarm may start sounding on your shore and no amount of snooze buttons or delays are going to halt the reality that awaits us.

-Meghan Hurley

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President Obama’s recent announcement of his administration’s intention  to broaden offshore drilling to  waters in the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the North coast of Alaska may have been more eloquent than the Republican’s favored sentiment, “Drill, baby, drill”, but the core message seemed to be eerily similar.

President Obama also preemptively addressed his critics in his speech, stating, “There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy.

Obama say what?

He further attempted to cushion the blow of this polarizing announcement by reminding the public of the positive things he and his administration have done for the environment and intend to do in the future, noting, Already, we’ve made the largest investment in clean energy in our nation’s history.

The President’s justifications have not been met with the understanding that he may have been hoping for, in fact, it seems as though his tooting of his own horn and his “the end justifies the means” defense is falling on a sea of deaf ears.

Critics have also been quick to identify this as a calculated move on his behalf in order to earn favor with Republicans. Ben Feller of the Huffington Post explains, “Inside politically conscious Washington, Obama’s announcement was viewed, too, as a play to win Republican support for a comprehensive climate change bill.”  While the intent of the President’s decision remains to be seen, it seems to be another rationalization for the expansion offshore drilling- if appeasing Republicans by giving them the offshore drilling that they love to enthusiastically chant for means that a bill that will be a positive step for the environment gets passed as a result, then is it really so bad?

Intentions aside, environmentalists are taking this surprise move by the President as a slap in the face. Among the offended, The Executive Director of Greenpeace, Phil Radford, offers “Expanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change.

Regardless of the reason or reasons President Obama made this decision, the reality is that offshore drilling comes with huge risks to the environment and to our nation‘s reputation worldwide. This decision gives the appearance that the President giving a huge thumbs up to the indulgent, gas guzzling habits prevalent in the United States today. Does President Obama really believe that offshore drilling is the methadone this junkie nation needs to finally kick the oil habit?

Supporting  the development and the implementation of cleaner energies would be a more proactive, long-term way to achieve energy independence. Compromises that include risky endeavors of seeking out more oil seem  not only senseless, but downright dangerous. Offshore drilling- no matter how much you dress it up or how many pretty bows you stick on it -comes with huge risks to the environment. Oil spills are dire events that have long-lasting negative repercussions for all types of life.

If you disagree with the President’s intention to extend offshore drilling, please, we urge you, to let your opinion be heard. Contact the President or sign this petition on Moveon.org. Also, remember to do your part and consume less energy.

Together, with a little effort and innovation-and perhaps a twelve step program-we can evolve into a nation that is free at last of our nasty oil habit.

-Meghan Hurley

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