Jackie Savitz is Oceana's Senior Campaign Director for Pollution Programs. This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.
In the 7,000-word State of the Union, President Obama seemed to leave out two letters that loomed large in 2010. "B" and "P" -- the initials of the company that destroyed the lives and livelihoods of Gulf of Mexico residents and did immeasurable destruction to Gulf ecosystems.
But BP was there in spirit. Its campaign contributions helped get many members of Congress and Senators elected, it was implicated in the oil industry effort to paper Washington, D.C. metro stations with ads, and just the day before, the halls of Congress were filled with lobbyists and others clamoring for seats at the Oil Spill Commission hearings.
And while the President didn't say those two letters, BP was implicated in his statement that we need to get 80% of our energy from clean sources by 2035. Because who would be better than BP, a company tarred and feathered and now in need of a clean break, to help us build our clean energy portfolio so it can provide 80% of our electricity by 2035?
The House of Representatives succumbed to the pressure of the oil and gas industry yesterday.
The CLEAR Act was intended to improve oil spill response and worker safety, provide funding for ocean conservation and more, but it took a turn for the worse when an amendment offered by Rep. Charlie Melancon, (D-LA) passed.
The amendment overturns President Obamaâ€™s deepwater drilling moratorium as long as certain standards are met.
This coming Saturday, June 26th, thousands of people will join hands -- literally -- on beaches around the world in opposition to offshore drilling. Will you be one of them?
Hands Across the Sand isnâ€™t about politics. Itâ€™s about protecting our oceans, coastal economies and marine life from the disastrous effects of offshore drilling.
Participating is easy. Just go to your beach on June 26 at 11 AM in your time zone. Form lines in the sand and at 12:00, join hands. Itâ€™s a peaceful, simple way to send a message to state legislators, Governors, Congress and President Obama: It's time to end offshore drilling and transition to clean energy.
The movement started in Florida this past February, when thousands of Floridians representing 60 towns and cities and over 90 beaches joined hands to protest the efforts by the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida.
Check out this video from the event:
Join hands with us and draw a line in the sand against offshore oil drilling.
At this point, we all know that BPâ€™s 5,000 barrel-a-day estimate is laughable, as are their claims that they can't measure the rate that the oil is gushing into the Gulf.
Over the weekend, four scientists, Ian MacDonald, John Amos, Timothy Crone and Steve Wereley wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that provides a new estimate of the oil spillâ€™s flow rate.
BP has claimed that it would be impossible to use their video clip of the broken pipe to analyze the rate of oil flow. These scientists have shown that claim to be blatantly false. Using computational methods to analyze the video, the scientistsâ€™ estimates showed median values of 60,000 to 75,000 barrels per day spilling into the Gulf.
There was plenty of finger pointing at this weekâ€™s Congressional oil spill hearings.
The chairman of BP America, Lamar McKay, said BP is responsible for cleaning up the spill, but he blamed Transocean for the failure of the safety seal.
Then Transocean CEO Steven Newman said that since BP is the operator, the spill is ultimately the oil giantâ€™s fault. And Halliburton executive Tim Probert denied that flaws in his company's cement contributed to the leak.
Meanwhile, oil continues to flow, uninterrupted, into the Gulf of Mexico.
But what the company executives and government officials fail to recognize is that the oil spill is not the fault of one company -- it represents an endemic lack of accountability from the oil industry and government agencies as a whole. The catastrophe isnâ€™t the result of one mistake, itâ€™s the result of a fundamentally broken system.
This is the ninth in a series of posts about the 2010 Ocean Hero finalists.
The Shark Finatics are a group of students at Green Chimneys School in Brewster, New York. Green Chimneys is renowned for helping emotionally injured children through animal-assisted therapy.
Teacher Robin Culler has worked in the Speech Department for over 11 years. When she read a book about sharks aloud to her students, they were horrified to learn about the brutal practice of shark finning and vowed to tell as many people as they could.
The students, who soon became known as the Shark Finatics, decided to "adopt" a shark. They helped make shark magnets to raise money for their first shark, Jonny, from Fox Shark Research. In 2009, they were proud adoptive parents to 21 sharks.
Through various projects, they have raised more than $2,000 for shark research and conservation organizations around the world. And they have reached out to hundreds of people about the threats facing sharks.
The areaâ€™s vital fisheries and wildlife are now in grave danger from what appears to be one of the nationâ€™s worst ecological disasters in decades.
Meanwhile, a senior adviser to President Obama said yesterday that there will be no new offshore drilling until an investigation was conducted into the spill -- a good start, but itâ€™s not enough. Obamaâ€™s plans to expand offshore drilling in new areas wouldnâ€™t take place for years anyway. His administration should halt those plans now and reinstate the moratoria that protected our coastlines for more than twenty-five years.
Thereâ€™s a comment period open now, and it closes next Monday, May 3. Tell Secretary Salazar today that enough is enough. We need clean energy, like the offshore wind project he approved earlier this week -- not expanded offshore drilling, and its associated catastrophic risks.
Matt Niemerski is an Ocean Advocate at Oceana.
The tanker, badly damaged and in danger of breaking apart, has already spilled 2 metric tons of heavy oil into the shoals off Queensland's coast in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In 2007, the same shipping company, COSCO, was linked to the major spill in the San Francisco Bay.
This is Australiaâ€™s third recent major disaster, following the massive oil spill off Queensland and the Timor Sea oil platform blowout. Oil is extremely toxic to marine life and the damage to habitat can persist for years, even decades after a spill.
In the wake of the Obama administrationâ€™s recent decision to open up a huge swath of U.S. waters to offshore drilling, this should serve as a warning against adding more oil to our oceans.
Anna Gowan is a policy fellow at Oceana.
Happy spring Friday!
Offshore drilling was on everyone's lips this week. And while we were disappointed with Obamaâ€™s decision to open new areas to drilling, he also cancelled four lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas that had been scheduled by President Bush and committed to conducting significant scientific research and monitoring before any new lease sales are held in those areas -- which is very good news for Arctic people and ecosystems.
In other ocean news,
â€¦U.S. Department of State banned imports of wild-caught Mexican shrimp if they are collected in ways that threaten endangered sea turtles; in other words, turtle excluder devices are now required in Mexicoâ€™s shrimp trawl nets.
â€¦NOAA administrator and marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco talked to Smithsonian Magazine about our changing view of the oceans, dead zones and a cohesive national ocean policy.
â€¦Anderson Cooper dove unprotected with great white sharks in South Africa with â€śshark manâ€ť Mike Rutzen. The video includes disturbing footage of a shark being finned and thrown back into the sea, still alive.