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May 3, 2010 at 4:01 PM

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Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico gets messy

Posted by Letters editor

Stuck in a slick situation

Editor, The Times:

The spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico ought to make us rethink more than just the wisdom of expanding offshore oil drilling. It should make us rethink our dependence on petroleum in general [“Underwater oil gusher a crisis no one imagined,” page one, May 1].

This latest environmental disaster should open our eyes to the damage our oil addiction is making. Not only does our oil dependence prop up autocratic, unfriendly regimes, it fouls up our own nest.

Tens of thousands of us die prematurely due to the air pollution associated with automobiles. Tens of thousands more die in car accidents. More important, we endanger future generations by generating greenhouse gases that are pushing the planet toward an inhospitable, ice-free state.

As if those aren’t enough reasons, consider how our society is organized around the assumption that oil will always be cheap and readily available, though independent geologists warn us that we are close to the peak of global oil production.

The Department of Defense estimates that surplus oil-production capacity could entirely disappear by 2012. That means a future of high gas prices and increasing international tension over remaining supplies.

We could be planning a future based on walkable communities and electrified public transit. Instead, we close our eyes to the damage oil does to the environment and ignore the future, wildlife and future generations be damned.

— Colin Wright, Seattle

Drilling, then spilling

As the magnitude of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster continues to grow, it is evident that we lack the appropriate terminology for a disaster of this size.

A “spill” is something a child does with his or her milk. In the worst case, it might involve a large container like a supertanker. But unlike the oil well gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, a “spill” in inherently limited in size.

If a way is not found to cap the well, this leak could be the Chernobyl of offshore drilling. After years of uneventful deep-water drilling and after having endured the “drill baby, drill” mantra of those who downplayed the risks, we now have an unambiguous illustration of the potential liability each offshore well presents.

I sincerely hope officials find a way to stem the flow of oil into the gulf. If not, we need to recognize this as the environmental meltdown that it is shaping up to be.

— Joe Sullivan, Seattle

Too late to put the genie back in the bottle

So, they drill a hole into a vast, highly pressurized pool of oil a mile under the sea and no one in the largest, most profitable industry on the planet could imagine a crisis occurring or plan an adequate response if it does? Come on.

I was a commercial fisherman in Prince William Sound in 1989. Other fisherman and I had screamed for years at a complacent oil industry, trying to get them to prepare for the foreseeable event of a tanker spill with containment booms and escort tugs. Instead, they decided it was more profitable to fail to imagine a spill rather than prepare for one.

Where is the containment bell you drop over the top of a blown-under, sea-oil well to allow you to collect the oil and pump it into tankers? Who could imagine you would need one? Certainly not the oil industry, whose job it is to safely pump oil from beneath the sea.

Do we want the government to force a bunch of costly safety measures onto an unwilling industry? Not until after the disaster happens, when it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

— Jeff Stonehill, Seattle

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