The Effect of the Oil Rig Disaster on California Politics

Oil rig explosionOver at CalBuzz, they’re taking a look at how the Louisiana oil rig explosion might affect the Tranquillion Ridge project. coastal drilling, and the political landscape in general:

Now, the metastasizing oil spill* in the Gulf of Mexico, and the apparent loss of the lives of at least 11 oil workers that followed a blow-out on a rig on Tuesday night – Earth Day – provide  a sudden and grim reminder of the high stakes of offshore drilling. … Many backers of the governor’s proposal have argued that oil drilling operations have undergone huge technological advancements in the past 40 years, making unlikely a massive spill like that poisoned the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969.

Among those who have embraced the technology-makes-it-safe argument are Republican wannabe governor Steve Poizner and his front-running rival, Meg Whitman.

“When I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling,” Whitman told reporters in Santa Barbara last year, “and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells.”

First, let’s acknowledge that this was a disaster of horrific scope and consequences. 11 workers on the rig have apparently lost their lives. And in environmental terms, this could end up being a massive oil spill if rescue workers cannot control the leakage. To the families of those who were lost, my sincere condolences.

Of course, this argument is happening in every coastal state right now, it’s playing out in Virginia for all the world to see.  Those on the right accuse environmentalists of using the disaster to score political points.  But, this isn’t political points, this goes directly to the question at hand.

Meg Whitman claims that oil drilling is a good thing for the state, because as she learned about the technology, she was simply overwhelmed with its safety and efficiency.  She’s hardly the only one, either.  The issue rarely comes up these days without an indication of how safe these new oil rigs really are. Well, the lie has been put to that, hasn’t it?  After all, it doesn’t really matter that such cases are rare, it really only takes one such disaster to spoil our coast line.

The Santa Barbara spill was 40 years ago now, but the lesson seems to be fading. Here in California we have such a faith in technology, we seem to feel that it will be our savior.  But, technology alone will not answer our problems. Just take a look at the San Francisco Bay. In the 50s and 60s, we were on our way to filling the whole thing up with landfill and building on top of it. Technology made that possible, but it was only the human spirit and a love of the environment that brought us back from the brink of an ecological tragedy.

Whatever your feelings about the governor’s race, we should consider just what Meg Whitman is suggesting with oil drilling off the Pacific. She would like to see more drilling off our coast, more rigs, more gambling with our environmental future. Jerry Brown opposed the T-Ridge project, and opposes future drilling. We simply can’t let Whitman gamble with our coast.

5 thoughts on “The Effect of the Oil Rig Disaster on California Politics”

  1. I have a solution, since California has its own special blend of oil, why don’t we team up with the other left leaning states of Oregon and Washington and have our oil as the same blend/formula. Economy of scale. If we have Oregon and Washington use the same oil as us, maybe oil could be more affordable.

    Thats one idea to make oil affordable without having to explore for new oil at the moment.  

  2. How wonderful if some media person could ask eMeg what she thinks about this terrific modern technology now that 11 rig workers are dead, a rig has been destroyed, and untold gallons of oil have spilled off the fragile Gulf Coast.  

    If she has her way, this could be at the Farallons in ten years, or at Catalina Island.

    But we’ll probably never know whether her thinking has changed, since no one ever gets to ask her any questions.

    It must be nice to be The Queen.

  3. I got the chance last weekend when I went to the state Democratic convention, to have a long political talk with my Republican mother. You see, she lives in L.A. So, even though I dreaded the inevitable diatribes that started with, “Well Rush says…” I stayed with her to save money.

    And I discovered something. George Lakoff is right. Mom really isn’t interested in facts. She knows what she believes. And no matter how many facts I threw at her, it didn’t change. She’ll listen to Rush because the lies he tells conform to her view of the world. She once claimed that Al Gore was the biggest federal lobbyist. When I challenged that, she said it was ALL environmental groups. When I did about 10 minutes of online research and proved that Carley Fiorina was the largest individual political donor last year and environment groups don’t even make it into the top 10 for lobbying expenditures, she completely ignored me. Last weekend, when I’d prove what she was saying was completely untrue and even demonstrably stupid, she’d say, “Well I don’t know much about that. But I know what I believe.”

    My mother is not an uneducated woman. She was a school teacher when I was a kid. But she knows what she believes. She only listens to things that reinforce it, doesn’t notice things that don’t. And no inconvenient truths are going to dissuade her. When I asked if she’d seen Al Gore’s movie, after she disparaged it, she indignantly replied she never would. I told her I had several times, and it isn’t at all as she had just represented it. Needless to say, her reply was, “Well I don’t know about that. But I know I don’t agree with him.”

    I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. But truth and lies just don’t matter to voters like these. You are wasting time and breath if you even try.

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