stringent government safety regulations and included layers of fail-safe
devices to prevent a massive oil spill. Now we know we were wrong.
It is increasingly clear that government oversight of BPs Deep Horizon
drilling rig was fatally lax. It is also clear that BP cut corners and
sacrificed safety in favor of speed. Even when it was obvious that safety
devices were breaking down or malfunctioning, BP just plowed ahead. When
the inevitable breakdowns occurred, there was nothing to stop the
cascading events that killed 11 workers, blew up the rig and spewed
millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
Its not as if we werent warned. Environmentalists, especially those with
knowledge of the ecological sensitivity of Gulf Coast wetlands, have been
telling us for decades that even a single failure of one of the 4,000 rigs
in the Gulf could be catastrophic.
The drill baby drill people tried to assure us otherwise. We need more
domestic production, they said, and we need it quickly. In fact, we
continue to import nearly twice as much oil as we produce domestically, so
new exploration and drilling had its fans. And renewable energy sources
like solar, wind, geothermal and fuel cells seem to be perpetually mired
in the demonstration and hypothetical stages.
Thats a shame, because that attitude guarantees we will continue to be
locked into a self-destructive dependence on oil for the foreseeable
future. That means more pollution, more oil spill disasters and, even
worse, more reliance on unstable and unfriendly governments that export
Even if you believe global climate change is a conspiratorial myth and our
addiction to petroleum products is not destroying the planet, the folks on
whom we must rely for our daily oil fix should give all of us pause.
The number one supplier of our imported oil is Canada, our old and
reliable friend. Thats a good thing. Second on the list of importers is
Mexico, another old but, alas, less reliable friend. But even in the
worst of times it seems unlikely they will ever turn off the spigot.
Beyond those two it starts to get plenty murky.
The next three biggest suppliers are
Nigeria, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.
Nigeria, the eighth most populous country on the planet, has recently
returned, sort of, to democratic rule after years of revolving door
military coups and juntas. Unfortunately, their last national election,
in 2007, was marred by fraud and violence. Give them credit for trying,
but they are less than a completely reliable ally.
Venezuela is led by Hugo Chavez who professes to hate us and is
perpetually ranting about potential American invasions of his country. He
has stripped his country of any semblance of freedoms as we know them, is
trying to develop a strong military and has installed himself as president
for as long as he pleases. He loves the money we provide for his oil but
little else about us and would likely jump at the chance to do us harm if
Then theres Saudi Arabia. They are most assuredly not our friends in any
sense of the word, regardless of what they might claim and no matter how
much our government sucks up to them. We import just under one million
barrels of oil every day from Saudi Arabia in exchange for which we pay
them tens of millions of dollars every day. As I write this the price is
about $72/barrel so todays bill will be more than $66 million. We owe
them about that much every single day, day after day. In return, the
Saudi government uses some of that money to finance terrorists committed
to our destruction.
The Saudi royal family has made a Faustian bargain in which they
finance the most extreme, cult-like version of Islam known as
Wahhabism. They do it quietly, with their checkbooks, sponsoring and
paying for madrasahs (schools) that teach this virulently violent
interpretation of the Quran. The Wahhabists have plucked the most
isolationist and angry sections of their holy book and turned
themselves into a bastardized version of Islam. In short, if you dont
agree with Wahhabi principles, they believe you are an infidel and must
be killed. Not could be killed or even should be killed but must be
killed. They have set up most of the terrorist training camps, gave us
the 9/11 attackers, and are responsible for most of the terrorist acts
at which we cringe while watching the evening news. Their believers
make up the core of both al Qaida and the Taliban. Their intent is a
world that agrees with their belief system or else. And we help
We are now trapped. We know that additional oil production here will
inevitably lead to new disasters. Were pretty sure the pollution caused
by burning fossil fuels is slowly destroying the environment. We know
that continued dependence on foreign oil forces us to rely on those who
wish us harm.
It is long past time both the government and industry quit delaying, quit
making excuses and make the commitment and dedicate the resources
necessary to whatever sustainable, renewable energy can move us away from
our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels. Were playing Russian
roulette with our future and every year we fail to make a real commitment
to alternatives adds another live round to the chamber. Eventually, and
it will be sooner rather than later, the gun will be fully loaded and
there will be no escape when we pull the trigger.
Stephen Tuttle is a political consultant who formerly wrote for the Arizona