“A teachable little monkey”

oil spill from Ocean Saratoga rig

Seven months after BP Deepwater Horizon what have we really learned? A few miles away at Ocean Saratoga rig, 1300 CST on Nov. 23rd, 2010, oil spreads out across the Gulf. The OS continues working to plug several leaking wells on the seafloor that were damaged by Hurricane Ivan six years ago - Wednesday's moratorium announcement by the Obama Administration may show we are learning... a little... maybe... but fast enough?

My grandmother on my mom’s side was a very practical lady.  Older, wiser, transformed by decades of cotton farming life in the panhandle of Texas when I came along.  I got to know her as a wee child only, but a few things stuck to me like her mashed potatoes – one was, you’re “a teachable little monkey” she would say.

Over the years I have hoped that would be the case and have worked diligently to learn, keep learning and continue learning as long as I live.  As you get older learning can be a bigger challenge – look around at the stupidity – learning isn’t something we do well as a species, especially from our mistakes.

Yesterday Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the Administration would impose a seven-year moratorium on drilling off the US east coast, eastern Gulf and “proceeding cautiously” in Alaska before granting new leases, a reversal of an earlier policy to open the areas.  As expected the decision and announcement was speared with sharp criticism from the oil and gas industry and related politicians.  But what my grandmother might celebrate, even being from a gas and oil blind state like Texas, is that we are, “a teachable little monkey” after hearing Salazar say,

“The changes [in drilling policy] that we are making today really are based on the lessons we are learning.”

One of the criticisms came from David Mica, Exec. Director and lobbyist for the Florida Petroleum Council (and brother of U.S. Florida Senator John Mica).  He told NPR radio,  “We don’t ground our aircrafts after a air crash, nor should we stop a, production of oil and gas here in the United States while these changes are made.” The changes being to the safety and procedures for drilling off shore.

Mr. Mica you’re wrong, as learnable little monkeys we do ground aircraft after a nightmarish disaster.  After 911 most of the skies over this planet were void of aircraft for days, and restricted for weeks.  More recently just QANTAS did what one would hope commercial corporations would responsibly do – they grounded their aircraft until they could be certain their operations were safe.  BP never stopped any of its operations for safety review post the Macondo disaster.

Back to our little monkey.  Unfortunately the announcement, while clean on the surface, is a little oily underneath.  The Administration just removed a proposal that was never voted on by congress to start with.  You can’t take something away if you never gave it in the first place, as pointed out by Don Briggs, president of Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. True, part of the shell game that continues to mark Obama Administration energy and environmental decisions.

Briggs went on to say, “No country in the world has as much of its natural resources off-limits for drilling as the U.S. does,”.  Mr. Briggs (and Mr. Mica and everyone else in or related to the oil and gas industry) maybe that’s why we are the U.S.?  We try to be learned little monkeys and play the game by different, some would say more intelligent, rules.  Have you visited oil and gas fields in other countries?  Have you seen the way the Chinese treat locals in Nigeria (and China for that matter)?

Maybe the problem isn’t learning, it’s desperation.  Folks like Briggs and Mica work for the oil industry, not the energy industry.  Energy and a sustainable energy plan is what this country needs, not oil, that plan doesn’t work and isn’t sustainable.  I hope we aren’t just smart little monkeys, I hope we are evolving as well.

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