Whose Responsibility Was the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?

16 Jul

by Madeline Wilson

When the BP spill was announced, I was surprised. Not because of the irresponsibility of the oil company or Barack Obama (though these feelings would come later), but because I had always appreciated off-shore drilling as something of the past.

I  had often associated off-shore drilling with the “Drill Baby Drill” campaign of the McCain-Palin camp during the 2008 presidential election. And, because politics is a polarizing sport, assumed that the Obama administration would take the opposite stance. Imagine my surprise when the not only the drilling continued after Obama’s election, but that it was regulated so loosely as to allow up to 1.7 million gallons of oil per day to be leaked into homes, habitats and much more, according to CNN.

My reaction is nothing new. Many Americans are watching their TV screens and scratching their heads in befuddlement. Many more Americans are protesting BP. A group of Florida “grannies” just sang a protest song against BP, in which one lyric goes: “Take your friggin’ drillin’ rigs, ’cause we don’t want your oil! Halliburton and BP: you suck!” I cannot count the amount of articles and political cartoons which called for Obama to “show more emotion.” The public’s anger is tangible.

After the BP spill, we have gone on a blame rampage.

It’s BP’s fault because of corporate greed; it’s Obama’s fault because of a lazy government. Both are true. According to CBS News, BP has spent $32 million dollars on lobbying to stay clear of drilling laws and other restrictions. Of this amount, Obama has received $77,051, according to Politico.com. Both parties are partly responsible.

But there is something that we fail to see: our own fault. Because while companies are responsible for their products and governments are responsible for these companies, there is another layer of power which we have forgotten: the people’s responsibility to monitor both the government and consumerism. This was a job we have failed.

Obama’s campaign speech praised the younger generation for “reject[ing] the myth of their generation’s apathy.” But I doubt that the public’s energy has carried into 2010. Obama was the antithesis of Sarah Palin and George Bush, and so the public assumed (rather than saw) that everything would go according to plan. Statistics, policy and restrictions went unnoticed. My apathy as to the nation’s off-shore drilling program reflects a new face of American politics: that in which ideals are taken for policy, speeches are taken for action.

BP is under an impressive amount of federal scrutiny. Obama is attempting to change the off-shore drilling policy, albeit slowly. Judging by the signs on numerous beaches, newspaper articles and protests, the American public will not allow the BP spill to happen again. But the question still remains: how did this happen in the first place?

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