Letter from a Reader:

Oil Spill in Southern California: Capitalism Not Fit Caretaker of the Planet

On October 2, a pipeline from an offshore oil platform off the coast of Orange County burst, spilling an estimated 144,000 gallons of oil. Once again, dead birds, dead fish, and globs of oil are washing up; toxic fumes fill the air; seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins are threatened. Talbert Marsh, a wetland1 that is home to more than 90 bird species, may never recover.

Environmentalist helps clean oil from a sanderling affected by California oil spill.


Sanderling covered in oil from October 2021 oil spill off the coast of Southern California.    Photo: AP

From the standpoint of humanity and protecting the natural world it makes no sense to drill deep into the earth in fragile ocean environments with vast and damaging spills an inevitable and common result. At least 6,500 oil spills occurred in U.S. waters between 2007 and 2017! (And this is just the U.S.—the damage that has been done in the Third World is enormous. For example, the ocean caught fire this July off of Mexico after a gas leak.) The oil can, at best, be only partially cleaned. Even decommissioned wells often leak and continue to poison the air and water.

Yet the U.S. has expanded undersea oil drilling for decades. Anti-science fascists like Trump drool every time they see a pristine wilderness and start selling oil drilling leases. But Democrats like California Governor Gavin Newsom and Joe Biden, who claim to be following the science and fighting climate change,2 are maintaining and expanding offshore drilling and other fossil fuel extraction.

2015 graphic showing largest oil spills affecting U.S. waters since 1969.


Graphic: NOAA

Gavin Newsom has, since coming to office in 2019, approved 150 offshore drilling permits, including five for new wells. The Biden administration, despite announcing a ban on new offshore oil leases is currently moving ahead with a plan to open up 80 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas drilling.

This is insane. This insanity appears to most people to be just the way things are. It IS the way things are, under this system. Offshore oil drilling is a crucial strategic resource for the U.S. empire. There are more than 20,000 active offshore oil wells in U.S. federal waters (almost all in the Gulf of Mexico, with others along the Pacific or Atlantic coast or in Alaska). These wells make up a significant amount (about 15 percent) of total U.S. energy production.

But this is NOT the way things have to be—the economy and society does not have be based on exploitation, oppression and the destruction of nature. To get into why this system is this way, and how a socialist system can be radically different, check out Why The World Is So Messed Up, And What Can Be Done to Radically Change This—A Basic Scientific Understanding by Bob Avakian; How Would a Revolutionary Socialist Society Address the Environmental Emergency? Excerpts from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development.

Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America


The CONSTITUTION for the New Socialist Republic in North America outlines what would be done immediately and in the long term to protect the environment.  See "How Would a Revolutionary Socialist Society Address the Environmental Emergency?" for excerpts, and see the full CONSTITUTION here.



1. Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. They are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. 90 percent of California coastal wetlands have been destroyed by human activity. [back]

2. Newsom has called for stopping oil production in the state by 2045 (24 years from now) and for stopping sales of gas-powered cars by 2035. [back]

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