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The Oil Spill Off the California Coast

It was inevitable, of course. Drill for oil offshore, and there are going to be oil spills, sometimes massive ones which kill marine life, pollute miles of ocean, and threaten to cause major long-term effects to the ecological environment.

We just had another one. What the oil companies would just call the cost of doing business. This was caused by a company named Amplify Energy Corporation, operating out of Houston Texas, doing their oil drilling here in the ocean off the coast of Southern California. No one knows for sure what caused this, but it is assumed it was due to a leak in the pipeline.

126,000 gallons of oil is the current estimate of the leak. Most affected is Huntington Beach, but it is expected to pollute Newport Beach, and possibly other seaside communities in Southern California.

I could read more about the details, but it is so depressing and inevitable. If you drill for oil, you are going to have leaks and explosions and various disasters. Drill in the ocean, and you will inevitably pollute it, and kill the ocean life.

In 1969, there was a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara. I remember it, and I also well remember the novel “Sleeping Beauty,” by the brilliant writer Ross Macdonald,, which is centered around that event. Macdonald was a very concerned environmentalist; and the opening descriptions, of a young woman desperately trying to save birds which had been covered in oil, is wrenchingly unforgettable. The novel also deals with a very rich family which is trying to mute their responsibility for the disaster. Macdonald wrote highly literate and complex mystery novels, and there always was a Southern California social subtext, perhaps never so powerfully explored by him as in this book, though I would highly recommend all of them.

I was thinking of titling this essay, “Spill, Baby, Spill,” but it might have sounded flippant, which is far from my intention. There are people, always the same people, who are so infatuated with money, that they will sacrifice anything, including our natural environment, for it. The thought of running out of oil is their worst nightmare. If it destroys the oceans, and the creatures living there, that is no big deal to them. Get the oil, get all of it, drill everywhere; off the coastline of California and Alaska. Drill for it in the oceans, the wetlands, anywhere that you can orgasm about the black gold spouting into the air, making millionaires out of wildcatters,and billionaires out of the longtime oil families.

If I ran the country, and had the power to effect my wishes, I would ban all offshore oil drilling. Would we run out of oil, would prices shoot up? I don’t care. I am no expert in industrial production, or utilities. I don’t know which of them would be shut down as a result of no oil, but I am willing to risk it.

Or drill in Houston, where these misbegotten oil barons live, not here. They hate California there, and it is of no moment to them what they do to our coastline. Their only concern is the lawsuits, but they always seem to survive them, as the dreadful British Petroleum did. I remember watching some show on CNBC when I followed the stock market, and somebody was recommending to buy that stock “as a a bargain, because it is at its lows after the oil spill, and will bounce back.” Of course, the human and animal and bird and fish life destroyed will not bounce back, but fortunately for the Wall Streeters, there is no stock or proxy for those.

Some residents of Huntington Beach, along with environmentalists, are questioning the time it took for a response. They point to potential lack of coordination between the Coast Guard and local officials. That could well be true, and it would add to the effect of the tragedy. Didn’t I read something a year or two ago, about how the Coast Guard was being degraded in the Trump Administration? Maybe that was about something else, but they degraded every federal and public agency, undoubtedly to be able to skim off some additional millions for themselves.

So we have horrific fires, and hurricanes, and rainstorms out of mythology, and now another oil spill. We have been gifted with this incredible planet, maybe, as far as we know, the most beautiful one in the entire universe; it is not impossible, despite the billions and billions of stars which Carl Sagan proudly described each week. And we humans are in the process of destroying it. Because of obscene greed, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity, and some insane need to destroy things, as if it gives these perverted people a sense of having power over them.

How many people died or suffered in the winter freeze in Texas, because the people who own that state insisted on privatizing and monetizing their power grid? How many people died or “just” lost their home during Hurricane Katrina, because the Bush Administration, run by oil barons, had substantially cut funds to FEMA?

I try not to drive very much, trying to at least cut a tiny bit out of oil company profits. What if millions of people did that? Maybe it would make no difference, but it would be worth a try. How about a series of “fireside chat” type presentations by this Administration, presenting suggestions as to how to cut down on fossil fuel usage?

Democrats in Congress must stop posturing, and pass every possible environmental regulation, to move the country away from coal and oil, in the dual bills stalled at this juncture. Do not apologize for it. I would not mind if all the oil companies went out of business. Yes, there would be some inconveniences, and of course it could not be done all at once, anyway. But let’s pass sweeping environmental legislation, and blow up the filibuster to get it done. Or do we just want to sit here and watch the planet burn, and have the oceans suffocated with oil? And Gavin Newsom has a chance to do something wonderful by banning all offshore drilling in California. It is far from impossible to do that.

What we have the actual power to do, is not certain. But we can sure try to find out. We really have nothing to lose by trying, as against what we lose by not doing much of anything besides watching massive oil spills be just another part of the depressing headlines we are confronted with. And of course I know that there are many people who do care, and who want to do something; and often give money or time to environmental causes. We need a full-fledged government effort to help coordinate and give impetus to it, without a the delay of even one more day.