Revolution #203, June 13, 2010
Obama and the BP Oil Catastrophe:
The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster is like a murder in progress. Birds caked in oil, waiting to die…all kinds of species, big and small, being poisoned and killed… wetland grasses, the heart of the coastal ecosystems soaking in oil and withering away…the lives of fishermen ruined.
Millions of people are anguished and furious at the prospects of many more months of millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf, of the government’s continuing failure to protect the fragile shore lands, and even more devastation to all kinds of marine life and birds. Some people hope Obama and the U.S. government will somehow come to the rescue and do the right thing. But the Obama government is directly and criminally culpable in this disaster:
- The Obama administration, through its Department of Interior and Minerals Management Service (MMS), approved BP’s Deepwater project now spewing the oil—despite BP’s notorious record of spills and accidents. BP lied, saying it had the means to clean up spills—and the MMS waived laws requiring environmental reviews to assess the damage such drilling could cause to wildlife.
- BP refused to release videos of oil gushing from its broken pipe and Obama’s press secretary defended this, saying it was BP’s decision because they owned the tapes. After video footage of the gushing oil became public, BP and Jane Lubchenco (head of the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) continued to lie about how much oil was coming out.
- Obama officials have censored scientists who discovered, contrary to BP’s original claims, that plumes of oil from the leak are present in large amounts under the surface of the Gulf. Scientists have also exposed that federal agencies were not conducting the proper tests to measure the effects of the oil on the Gulf. Even now, government agencies are failing to systematically track the effects on wildlife in wetlands, coastal areas and marine life.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowed BP to use chemical dispersants to break up the oil—despite the fact these dispersants are known to be toxic. Even after widespread press reports about this danger, the EPA continued to allow the use of dispersants and has yet to conduct proper tests on the chemicals’ effects.
- Just a month before this oil disaster began, Obama broke a decades-long U.S. moratorium on offshore drilling by proposing to massively expand drilling into new areas in Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Florida. Obama justified this by saying, “Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills.”
- Obama has declared a six-month moratorium to supposedly make sure drilling is made “safe,” but as Obama himself says offshore drilling remains “an essential part of our overall energy strategy.” And, as the Center for Biological Diversity exposed, the temporary moratorium didn’t cover permits already in the pipeline—so even after the start of this current catastrophe, the MMS continued to issue permits to 26 new drilling projects, two of them to BP!
These crimes are not simply the result of a “scandalously close relationship” (in Obama’s own words) between officials of federal regulatory agencies and the oil companies, or of the government being caught flat-footed and being too passive. Yes, there is plenty of greed and corruption and incompetence to go around. But there is something deeper and systemicat work.
Obama is the head of a state that represents the interests of the capitalist/imperialist system, which exploits and squeezes the lifeblood out of billions of people around the world. This system bases its entire functioning on the extraction of cheap and extremely profitable energy sources from “fossil fuels”—oil, gas, and coal—despite the fact that the use of these fossil fuels has been tremendously destructive to the environment and has led to potentially catastrophic climate changes on a global scale.
For the U.S. rulers, their position as the top imperialist power is inextricably linked to access to and control of massive amounts of fossil fuels (which is one reason for the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the support for Israel as the U.S. attack dog in the Middle East, and the threats against Iran). The U.S. military is, in fact, the largest single institutional purchaser of oil. With more easily extractable sources of oil drying up, this has become an era of “tough oil,” with capitalist mega-corporations and countries rushing—and competing with each other—to drill in more dangerous and harder-to-reach places, and for even more polluting sources of oil, with heightened potential for catastrophes. This deeper imperative is what has been driving the drilling in the Gulf of Mexico at depths of a mile and more.
And the reason this government will not, and can not, really mobilize the masses of scientists, technical experts, and ordinary people is because of the private nature of capitalism. Capitalism can’t confront this problem and mobilize humanity to deal with it because any such mobilization could undercut its necessity to defend the “sanctity of private property” and to maintain masses of people in a suppressed and subordinate position. This is a sharp example of how the interests of the capitalist class and the interests of humanity as a whole are in antagonism.
It will take a whole new system—a revolutionary socialist society that is moving toward a world free of all exploitation and oppression—to deal with such disasters in a radically different way. A revolutionary state can and will mobilize, rely on, and lead the masses of people in dealing with such disasters and other social contradictions—unleashing the creativity and energy of the people, seeking out all kinds of ideas and using the best ones, bringing out people’s highest aspirations, and applying all that to genuinely creative and cooperative solutions.
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