9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Gulf Oil
    Disaster That Could Save Millions of Lives
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   “This is what the end of the oil age looks like,” says
Post-Carbon Institute fellow Richard Heinberg. “The
cheap, easy petroleum is gone; from now on, we will pay
steadily more and more for what we put in our gas
tanks—more not just in dollars, but in lives and health,
in a failed foreign policy that spawns foreign wars and
military occupations, and in the lost integrity of the
biological systems that sustain life on this planet.”
   The only solution is to do proactively, and sooner,
what we will end up doing anyway as a result of
resource depletion and economic, environmental, and
military ruin: end our dependence on the stuff.
   Everybody knows we must do this. Even a recent
American president (an oil man, it should be noted)
admitted that “America is addicted to oil.” Will we let
this addiction destroy us, or will we overcome it? Good
intentions are not enough. Now is the moment for the
President, other elected officials at all levels of
government, and ordinary citizens to make this our
central priority as a nation. We have hard choices to
make, and an enormous amount of work to do.

 9 Global Experts Steer the Gulf Oil Spill Conversation
                   into Fresh Waters
                From Post Carbon Institute Website:

Posted May 20, 2010 by David Fridley David Hughes Erika Allen
Gloria Flora Stephanie Mills Tom Whipple Warren Karlenzig
William Ryerson Zenobia Barlow

In an effort to broaden the
conversation about the horrific
Gulf Coast oil spill, nine Fellows
of the Post Carbon Institute offer
their perspectives on largely
underreported aspects and
outcomes of the disaster.

(Food/Agriculture & Social
Justice Fellow)
The True Costs of Production
& Environmental Racism

―As corporate entities continue to extract natural resources from the
earth, whether on sea or land, there needs to be a shift in calculating
the true costs of "production". Risk management assessment needs
to also include: costs associated with climate degradation both in
terms of increasing fossil fuel and mineral use and, of particular
interest in this latest disaster, the high costs of environmental racism.
―A colleague of mine, working in New Orleans (Nat Turner of the
Blair St. Grocery Project), in a discussion about the oil spill and
impacts on the ecosystem pointed out that this is poised to be a La
Nina year with increased risk for powerhouse hurricanes that will suck
up the oil and dump it all over an already devastated New Orleans
and the Gulf Coast region. These hurricanes don‘t need to make
landfall, they just need to send oil-laden water to shore. This looming
disaster, this transference of the millions of gallons of oil to shore, is
something no one is calculating.

―We must demand corporate reparations and a full re-hauling of
inspections and development of environmentally sound risk
management and disaster preparedness plans for offshore oil drilling
in our fragile seas.‖

Erika Allen is Chicago Projects Manager for Growing Power, a
nationally acclaimed non-profit organization and land trust led by
founder Will Allen that provides equal access to healthy, high-quality,
safe, and affordable food, especially in disadvantaged communities.
She helps food producers of limited resources strengthen their farm
businesses and work in partnerships to create healthy and diverse
food options in inner city and rural communities. Erika is co-chair of
the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council, and was appointed by
Governor Pat Quinn in 2008 to the Illinois Local and Organic Food
and Farm Task Force.

TOM WHIPPLE (Peak Oil Fellow)
Deepwater Denial: Not Much Left to Drill

"Yet another serious problem for the prospects of future oil production
is starting to emerge. The deepwater wells, on which we are
basing much of our energy future, may not be as productive as
previously thought. Until recently the poster child for deepwater oil
production was BP's Thunderhorse platform that, after years of delay,
started producing in 2008 and was supposed to produce a billion
barrels of oil at the rate of 250,000 barrels a day (b/d). At first all
seemingly went well with production reaching 172,000 b/d in January
of 2009, but then production started falling rapidly to a low of 61,000
b/d last December. BP refuses to comment publicly on what is
happening at Thunderhorse, but outside observers are growing
increasingly skeptical that the platform will ever produce the planned
billion barrels. At least 25 other deepwater projects are said to be
facing problems of falling production, raising the question of just how
much oil these very expensive deepwater projects will ever produce."

Tom Whipple is one of the most highly respected analysts of peak oil
issues in the United States. A retired 30-year CIA analyst who has
been following the peak oil story since 1999, Tom is the editor of the
daily Peak Oil News and the weekly Peak Oil Review, both published
by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA. He is also a weekly
columnist on peak oil issues for the Falls Church News Press. Tom
has degrees from Rice University and the London School of

BILL RYERSON (Population Fellow)
We Drill to Satisfy Demand: The Real Cleanup Starts with Family

“President Obama is expected to sign an executive order to form a
Presidential commission to investigate the Gulf oil spill. We may
never know who is directly liable, but we know with absolute certainty
who bears the ultimate responsibility: it is us. We are drilling in
hazard-prone areas because of humanity‘s insatiable appetite for oil.
And that‘s just one of a myriad ways in which human activity is
endangering wildlife.

―Last week, the Convention on Biological Diversity released its third
Global Biodiversity Outlook report, and noted that the population of
wild vertebrate species ―fell by an average of nearly one- third (31%)
globally between 1970 and 2006, with the decline especially severe in
the tropics (59%) and in freshwater ecosystems (41%).‖ It reported
that, ―The news is not good. We continue to lose biodiversity at a rate
never before seen in history,‖ and it warned that "massive further loss
is increasingly likely.‖
―The CBD lists two ―indirect‖ drivers behind the loss of wildlife:
population growth and rising consumption. If world‘s leaders continue
to focus on boosting consumption and we don‘t do a lot more to
prevent unwanted pregnancies in the world, the outlook for the Gulf
area and the world is grim.‖
William Ryerson is founder and President of Population Media
Center, and President of the Population Institute. He has a 38-year
history of working in the field of reproductive health, including two
decades of experience adapting the Sabido methodology for behavior
change communications to various cultural settings worldwide. In
2006, he was awarded the Nafis Sadik Prize for Courage from the
Rotarian Action Group on Population and Development. William
received a B.A. in Biology (Magna Cum Laude) from Amherst College
and an M.Phil. in Biology from Yale University.

STEPHANIE MILLS (Ecology Fellow)
Screw Nature. We Want Wal-Mart!

―The map of the area threatened by the BP blowout, comprising
nearly half of the US‘s coastal wetlands, looks like tattered lace. It‘s a
realm of islands, shoals, estuaries, marshes, swamps, bayous, and
creeks, land speckled across water, water twining across land, all of it
in flux. There appears to be an infinity of shoreline, with a near
infinity of oil to be washed by tides and blown by hurricanes and
carried by ocean currents into those wetlands to be caught in the
reeds and sea grasses, to clog the silts and sands and choke the
dwellings of the minuscule life forms that constitute the basis of the
enormous banquet of life the Gulf of Mexico has immemorially

―It‘s crucial habitat for countless species of birds and other animals, to
say nothing of the gumbo of Southern Louisiana‘s cultures. Much of
the reporting on the blowout has rightly concerned the human
economy of the Gulf, the peril spilt oil poses to place-based industries
like the fishing and tourism. Yet the damage to nature‘s economy will
be incalculable. No matter how sincerely or mediagenically our
political leadership vows to fix things and hold the perpetrators to
account, ecological disasters of this magnitude admit of no relief.

―Excepting its magnitude, BP‘s Deepwater Horizon gusher is an
almost routine occurrence. Since 1996, reports Robert Kennedy,
there have been 39 blowouts in wells in the Gulf of Mexico prior to
this gargantuan event. An outright ban on offshore oil drilling is the
only sure way to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.
Vastly outnumbering the killed and injured workers, whose loss alone
is infinitely grievous, the majority of the victims of this dependency—
the wildlife, the landscapes, and the future generations of human
beings—are voiceless. Bereft of clout, their claims are faint as
compared to the din of PR, the white noise of the status quo, and our
general human aversion to sacrifice and inability to defer

Stephanie Mills is a renowned author and lecturer on bioregionalism,
ecological restoration, community economics, and voluntary
simplicity. Stephanie has lectured at numerous institutions, including
the E.F. Schumacher Society, the Chicago Academy of Sciences,
and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1996 she was named
by Utne Reader as one of the world's leading visionaries.

WARREN KARLENZIG (Urban Sustainabiity Fellow)
American Drivers Need to Shoulder Gulf Coast Burden

"We aren‘t looking at the real cause, which is not just demand, but
demand created by inherently inefficient suburban planning. The
majority of Gulf oil is being used to power cars and trucks serving
suburban U.S. homes and business. We need to plan a way to
reduce suburban/ exurban impact on the nation's oil use. Gulf
communities, and other communities worldwide (Niger River Delta)
are shouldering the burdens of American drivers. Suburban
citizens nationwide should start a campaign to drive less and donate
the resulting savings to Gulf fishing industry, as it‘s their fossil fuel -
 heavy lifestyle that has made this type of tragedy inevitable.

It‘s also of interest to note that solar cells or wind power have
nothing to do with this issue in terms of current solutions. Oil is not
used to power electricity or heating anymore in the US (only 2%,
versus 67% for transportation)

We need to rethink our community planning if we want to reduce our
oil dependency , climate impacts and economic viability. Economics
are already dictating that car-dependent sprawled
communities cannot compete with market demands for denser, mixed
use, transit-oriented communities. Higher oil prices, climate change
and oil-related megadisasters like the Gulf oil spill will make exurban
sprawl obsolete by the end of the decade.‖

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally
active urban sustainability strategy consultancy. He is author of How
Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings. Warren is
on the board of directors for the Climate Change Center and the
Korea Green Foundation, and has lectured in three continents,
appearing in global media including The Washington Post, The Wall
Street Journal, The New York Times, People's Daily (China), BBC,

DAVID HUGHES (Fossil Fuels Fellows)
Approaching the End of Oil: The Last Frontier

“The BP Deepwater Horizon was the latest but certainly not the last
major oil spill. Although it was pushing the limits of water depth and
sub-seafloor depth—at 5,000 and 13,000 feet respectively—it was far
from the record book, as wells have been drilled in more than 9,000
feet of water reaching more than 25,000 feet deep. Mother Nature is
unknowable to the last detail in such physical conditions, and
therefore it is impossible to eliminate risk completely. Why are we
doing this? Because this is the very last frontier for oil extraction.

―The cost of Deepwater Horizon in both ecological and monetary
terms will be phenomenal. Yet it is unlikely to significantly impact the
race for offshore oil to fuel the addiction of our growth-based society,
which now consumes more than 30 billion barrels per year
(equivalent to the daily output of 17,000 Deepwater Horizon wells,
which is a very productive well as oil wells go). Ultimately, this race
will lead to ever-diminishing returns, owing to declining energy return
on investment and escalating ecological and monetary costs.‖

David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources
of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the
Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager.
He developed the National Coal Inventory to determine the
availability and environmental constraints associated with Canada’s
coal resources. As Team Leader for Unconventional Gas on the
Canadian Gas Potential Committee, he coordinated the recent
publication of a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s
unconventional natural gas potential. He is currently president of a
consultancy dedicated to research on energy and sustainability

GLORIA FLORA (Public Lands Fellow)
The Butterfly Effect: Tiny Ripples Make Huge, Dirty Waves

―We‘re largely overlooking the absolute interconnectedness of the
effects of the tragedy–stretching into all aspects of life as we know it
in that region. Humans (emotional, psychological, economics, food),
Physical (air, beaches, contamination of the whole water column, loss
of barrier islands) and Biological (plants, microbes, aquatic life, birds,
mammals). The tragedy in the Gulf parallels other current
ecosystlem collapses (polar ice sheets, glacier-dependent systems,
island inundation from sea level rise) and even our global economic
system, 80% of which is dependent on natural resources. It‘s all
connected but we continue to turn a blind eye.‖

Gloria Flora is founder and Director of Sustainable Obtainable
Solutions, an organization dedicated to the sustainability of public
lands and of the plants, animals and communities that depend on
them. In her 22-year career with the U.S. Forest Service, Gloria
became nationally known for her leadership in ecosystem
management and for her courageous principled stands: as supervisor
of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in north-central Montana, she
made a landmark decision to prohibit natural gas leasing along the
356,000-acre Rocky Mountain Front. She serves on the Montana
Climate Change Advisory Committee and works throughout the U.S.
with the Center for Climate Strategies in assisting states develop
climate change action plans.
DAVID FRIDLEY (Renewable Energy & Biofuels Fellow)
Hook or Crook: California Will Reduce Oil Consumption

―Is offshore drilling environmentally responsible? This is a
multifaceted problem. California produces about 1/3rd of its crude
consumption today, with the balance coming from Alaska and
overseas (with Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, and Iraq being the largest
foreign suppliers). This means that there are large oil tankers arriving
in California almost daily, and these tankers can pose as much of a
threat of an environmental disaster as a spill from an offshore oil well.
But California and Alaskan production peaked some time ago
(California peaked in 1985), so we face a future of even higher levels
of tanker traffic (the California Energy Commission forecasts 100-250
additional tanker visits annually by 2030, depending on the size of the
ship, and up to 175 additional visits by 2020) as domestic production
continues to fall. But even with additional offshore drilling here, it
would not make up for continued decline in California and Alaska
production, so imports would need to continue in any case, though it
would serve to reduce tanker traffic.

What this suggests is that the only truly environmentally responsible
way for California to minimize the threat of future damage from oil
spills is to cut consumption of oil, and this state is woefully
unprepared to deal with this third option, although it will come about,
either through intention or as a consequence of declining global

Since 1995, David Fridley has been a staff scientist at the Energy
Analysis Program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in
California. He is also deputy group leader of Lawrence Berkeley's
China Energy Group, which collaborates with China on end-user
energy efficiency, government energy management programs, and
energy policy research. Mr. Fridley has nearly 30 years of experience
working and living in China in the energy sector, and is a fluent
Mandarin speaker. He spent 12 years working in the petroleum
industry both as a consultant on downstream oil markets in the Asia-
Pacific region and as business development manager for Caltex
China. He has written and spoken extensively on the energy and
ecological limits of biofuels.
ZENOBIA BARLOW (Ecological Literacy Fellow)
Education System Will Benefit from Nature’s Course

―Aboard a boat in the Gulf of Mexico this week, Vernon Asper, a
professor of marine sciences at the University of Southern
Mississippi, told NPR: ‗The very best thing probably is to let nature
take its course.‘

―He was not, of course, alone in his response (in this case, referring
to the deep-water microbes that decompose oil.) In the face of the
daunting Gulf of Mexico oil spill—still spilling, one month after the
explosion—it is tempting to resort, on rational or spiritual grounds, to
thoughts about the healing powers of nature. We poor humans, after
all, don‘t yet even know how much oil has spilled, or how to stop it.

―But how might things have turned out differently if more of us had
understood the course of nature—and acted on that understanding—
before this crisis hit? Would we have better estimated nature‘s
capacity to compensate for human mistakes and limited ourselves to
actions and technologies whose consequences we could manage?
Would we have learned to calculate and live within an energy budget
that doesn‘t require dangerous extraction practices?

―If there is any good at all to come of the latest Gulf disaster, it is that
more people might recognize the very real need for schools to accept
responsibility for nurturing a new kind of understanding and caring,
which has been variously called ecoliteracy, ecological intelligence,
and education for sustainable living.

―We urgently need schools to prepare young people for a world
marked by climate change, water shortages, and significant threats to
food security—and then share the teaching and learning experiences
that inspire them to develop more creative, sustainable ways of living.

―Education for sustainable living recognizes that the skills and
wisdom that were once sufficient for our survival as a species are no
longer adequate for modern life. It reveals the hidden web of
connections between human activities and nature‘s systems and our
impact on the planet, health, and social systems. And it points young
people in the direction of better, more sustainable ways of living.

―Surely, it‘s a better than hoping that nature will bail us out of our

Zenobia Barlow is cofounder and executive director of the Center for
Ecoliteracy and a Post Carbon Institute fellow. More at

Photo credit: Paul Mirocha

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