BP's Damage Control - And Americans' Cognitive Dissonance

BPPROTESTORJoeRaedle:Getty

From ads to a more innovative tactic:

[BP] has purchased several phrases on search engines such as Google and Yahoo so that the first result that shows up directs information seekers to the company's official website. A simple Google search of "oil spill" turns up several thousand news results, but the first link, highlighted at the very top of the page, is from BP. "Learn more about how BP is helping," the link's tagline reads.

I let rip in the Sunday Times yesterday:

Oil companies failed to report fully what they were planning, and permits were approved with almost absurd speed. In the Deepwater Horizon case, a permit was approved a mere 10 minutes after it was submitted. Obama did nothing to stop this syndrome when he came in, and his interior secretary, Ken Salazar, is well known for his cosiness with big oil. That will change now.

Alas, what won’t change is the oil addiction that has forced the US to drill deeper and deeper in more and more treacherous waters, where techniques carry more risks precisely because the terrain is brand new. If you want to assign real, structural blame, it belongs in the end to the American people, who simply refuse to wean themselves off carbon and want to continue having the cheapest petrol in the West.

This habit bolsters America’s enemies, empowers oil-rich Islamic states and is slowly cooking the planet. Meanwhile, the climate change bill passed in the House of Representatives remains stalled in the Senate. Because deep-sea oil exploration was a key way to get some Republicans on board for the package, the bill that might in the long run have prevented the same thing happening again has been killed by the BP gusher and a suspension of deep-sea drilling.

The obvious solution some kind of carbon tax remains anathema. Remember that America is a country whose de facto leader of the opposition, Sarah Palin, ran on a slogan of “Drill, baby, drill!”

Which means that it’s not just a question of when this ghastly gusher is stopped; it’s a question of when exactly this will happen again. And there will be another company to blame then, like a crooked drug dealer whose addicted customer is getting sicker and sicker and more and more determined to get his fix. Maybe it will take an even greater disaster to force Americans to realise that they have finally hit bottom in their addiction. But I wouldn’t count on it, even then.

(Photo: Shawn Luzmoor wears a gas mask and holds a sign reading, 'Drill, Baby, Drill !' as he tries to get people to react to the oil spill that is now washing up in the form of small oil globs on Pensacola Beach from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on June 5, 2010 in Pensacola, Florida. By Joe Raedle/Getty Images.)