Why BP is 100% responsible and we are too.

August, 2010. So finally, the British Petroleum well that spilled over 5 million barrels (yes, that’s barrels, not liters or gallons) of oil onto the already hyper-polluted waters of the Gulf of Mexico, as been capped, and everyone has forgotten about it because of course, Anderson Cooper and his CNN crew have left the area.

At this point in time, the damage, i would think, would be immense and the impact on the wildlife of the area and our on safety has been compromised beyond fix. yet the U.S. Government claims that up to 75% of the oil has been pumped, evaporated or collected in one way or another. This claim on it’s own I find very hard to believe as anyone who as tried to wash a bottle of canola oil before disposing of it in the recycling bin will attest.

I am, by no means, a fan of BP. They are a greedy irresponsible company, with no regard for the life of the people that pump money into their coffers, let alone the well being of the rest if the population. I am of course in favor of capitalism, I live by it and I applaud it as I do applaud for democracy. I know that companies have been created for the purpose of making a profit, not racking it in, but I also believe in social and moral responsibility of this corporations. That is, perhaps, why companies (at least in Mexico) are defined as “Moral Persons” when you register them. Yet in some way, we have allowed these corporations to create and follow their own rules, many times in complete disregard of the community that allows them to exist.

BP should be severely punished for the damage caused not only in the present, but in the past and very probably in the future. And so should all the companies in any field that operate in disregard for the population, the communities and the environment in which they operate.

Some have argued that the spill is actually not their fault, or that of the companies they hire, sub-contract or otherwise. They actually dare to say that it is our fault, the consumers.

I disagree, we are not responsible, they are. They ignored all safety and security issues outlined to protect everyone of an accident like this. As consumers, we can, of course, boycott BP’s gas stations and do all sorts of protest and outcries, however, as it is no longer front page news, that has all gone away and kept behind for the people who actually live in the area to deal with and suffer for the foreseeable future. A lot of the oil produced will go into products other than gas where it’s impossible to determine BP’s involvement.

But the larger issue is that we have become BP’s accomplices because one, we already forgot about the spill, but most importantly, we have not changed our consumption patterns. We keep driving highly inefficient vehicles, regardless of what the car makers have to say. Engines are still far from being efficient, and overall, we drive cars that waste most of their fuel.

We are quite enamored with our SUV’s and gas guzzlers while all the oil producing countries are laughing at us every time they look to our traffic reports and realize that we depend on them with no end on sight.

I recently visited Europe and I find it amazing how efficient their electric train service is, covering a vast amount of Western Europe with great on-time performance and fairly fast service, while here in Toronto, after at least 15 years, we are still trying to build a track from the airport to Union Station. In France and Italy, the use of small cars is outstanding, but we do exactly the opposite, as we always believe bigger is better. We still don’t seem to understand that the cost of moving the car is actually more than moving ourselves. Every time I tell anyone I’m thinking of getting a smart car again, I get an earful of all kinds of slurs that would be mostly illegal in our politically correct Canada, yet it seems to work perfectly as most of us tend to travel alone most of the time, drive short distances and leave the car parked for most of the day.

Just look at the available cars for us in North-America, one is bigger than the next, with enough horsepower for an Indy car race and in the end the only place we are getting faster to, is the next not-so-well-synchronized stop light, perhaps a second or two before the three cylinder SmartCar.

I am not a big believer in conspiracy theories, yet I find it very suspicious that the car companies have failed to deliver a substantial amount of hybrid or electric cars, and that other technologies like Hydrogen power have taken such a long time to develop. So effectively, we have been kept on the fossil fuel loop with no apparent reason. General Motors actually sold the EV1, the first electric car more than a decade ago. Yet despite the high acceptance of it’s drivers, the very high level of satisfaction and the low cost of maintenance, the vehicle was never brought back to the market, every car was repossessed by GM, and the technology has not being used as efficiently as it was on the EV1.

Better Place, a company based in Israel, and founded by Uber-entrepreneur Shay Agassi has been developing complete systems that integrate zero emission vehicles into society (http://www.wired.com/cars/futuretransport/magazine/16-09/ff_agassi?currentPage=all) and although they have succeeded to recruit very visible supporters, they have yet to start integrating these systems into any community. There seems to be no real support from the governments in almost any country to further development of a real and true substitution to the consumption of fossil fuels for transportation. and my question is still why?

I’m sure the answer is not a simple one and certainly there is no single silver bullet to tackle the issue. This is one issue that requires a full effort from everyone. Government, private business and public in general. We all need to help. If we were just a bit more responsible, just one bit. As citizens, we can’t expect government to do everything for us and we shouldn’t wait for legislation to understand that we have to rely on more efficient cars, but also the government should have already stepped in and establish real severe limits on fossil fuel consumption given than that seems to be the only way we do things, even we don’t like it.

It is time to look into the issue and forget about the people who say global warming does not exist. I won’t get into that debate now, but for our health, physical, mental and economic, we need to take responsibility and not blame only BP and Exxon and their likes. Until we accept we are their accomplices, we are just as bad as they are.

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