John Howell’s column

Plenty of blame to go around for Horizon oil spill

If we really want to get to the bottom of blame for the BP oil spill in the Gulf, we need to take a hard look in the mirror. No political party, no state, no oil company owns the blame. Everyone shares, not equally but personally. And if there’s a solution it will probably paid unequally but personally as well.

There’s a hue and cry about the enormous threat the oil spill poses to Louisiana’s wetlands and, according to the huers and criers, little does the nation realize how precious are those wetlands, not just to Louisiana but to the entire nation.

The trouble with raising that hue and cry now is that political and business interests in Louisiana have for over a century sold those wetlands short when they got in the way of harvesting the oil and gas deposits under them. Canals cut through wetlands to float in oil exploration and drilling equipment remain as huge gashes that allow saltwater intrusion. Louisiana officials did not hold oil companies to existing regulations that require mitigation of damage to wetlands. They just let them do as they please and winked or looked the other way at what weak regulations were in place. That’s been going on for decades now in the coastal wetlands and shallow shoreline.

And we’ve all gone along for the ride — literally. We’ve refused to heed warnings about limited supplies of fuel sources. We’ve even accused those who have tried to warn us of being anti-American or anti-business or some such.

Isn’t that selling this nation short? Are we saying our current lifestyles must be sustained at any cost because we lack sufficient initiative to innovate and improvise our way around it?

The new oil catastrophe is far more dramatic than the gradual erosion and pollution of the marshlands that’s been going on for decades. It is many miles offshore and, more significantly, a mile deep — down in a place that we know less about than the surface of the moon.

While there was much more that could have been done to prevent the Horizon Spill, it wasn’t. Now we’re left with consequences that will alter our lifestyles. But if we look in the mirror and admit that we are seeing the cause of the problem in the image reflected back at us, then there’s a chance that we can also find the solution there.

Not back to business as usual. Not ever. The future will belong to business as unusual.

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