Shades of Green: Of pillows, hair and top hats

In Columns, Opinion

With over 4 million gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, and as the people who initiated offshore drilling decades ago are scrambling to clean up their mess, I can’t help but stand back and laugh.

Technology has always been on our side, save for the event of an oil spill, so now we’re welcoming any sort of homespun ideas submitted by average American citizens, aka geniuses.

Can’t get the oil to stop spewing? Let’s put a cork in it. Someone has already suggested sewing pillows together to line beaches and soak up the oil as it comes ashore. Oh yeah, and did I mention the hair thing? Dozens of salons are collecting hair trimmings to stuff into old stockings and create makeshift oil-absorbers called booms.

At this point, the most promising tactic is either dropping a giant box into the ocean (with an additional “top hat”) or shooting the sea up with a chemical dispersant that would supposedly soak up all oil-related pollutants. Of course, these chemicals have been “largely untested,” because why would our government waste any time or money testing out an oil spill back-up plan? We’re already far in debt as it is. And, whatever, the ocean is large enough to take a few hits.

In fact, we’ve never even considered testing any back-up plans until just a few days ago when we dropped thousands of gallons of some random chemical into the ocean with little to no knowledge of its environmental impact. To this, we are provided some slight reassurance:

“We’re just really getting started. You can imagine it’s something we’ve never thought about,” said Charlie Henry, a scientific support coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to the Huffington Post.

So as Nemo and Dory are enduring acid trips off chemical dispersants, the oil will just magically disappear into thin air.

And the question remains: Why haven’t we used any available technology and preventative measures?

“We will stop the leaks, but it’s not like the technology is just lying around,” said National Academy of Engineering member Kenneth Arnold, according to USA Today. “It has to be built.”

Okay, so the preventive measures simply never existed in the first place. Well, that’s reassuring.

At least now we can say we learned our lesson, right? We are currently implementing new laws that ensure proper preparedness for the next time when millions of gallons of oil flood into the ocean. At that point we should actually have available technology and backup plans.

Of course, we said something along those lines after the Exxon blowout just a few decades ago. We initiated the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and provided a cap to a company’s liability for economic losses resulting from spills, hoping that “human error” would be something taken more seriously. What a great preparatory event. The U.S. is obviously very good at taking lessons from the past.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin put perfectly in the Baltimore Sun: “The catastrophic oil spill ravaging the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on coastal states is another reminder: America’s current energy policy is a disaster. We need to break our dangerous addiction to oil and promote safe and clean sources of power and fuel – and we need to begin today.”

Or, we can just sit around and watch television. And you can do exactly what I am doing: laugh. There is nothing more helpless than this pathetic situation, and as I am sure someone’s mother used to say, “There’s no use in crying over spilled milk.”

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