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The Hamilton Spectator
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Tuesday May 4, 2010
A disaster bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico after the April 20 oil rig explosion, where a shutoff valve failed to close a test well. It is gushing 210,000 gallons of crude a day, and the U.S. Coast Guard, other federal agencies and British Petroleum, which owns the rig, are trying every trick to cap the flow.

This disaster offers many lessons, starting with the need for an energy policy that reduces our thirst for oil.

Lesson: For the Obama administration, forget opening up the Gulf to more drilling. Just look at the map. There are plenty of rigs and leases already in the works. Safety must come first. Although the oil and gas industry has a good operating record in the Gulf, Sen. Bill Nelson says that the Interior Department in 2003 retreated from a 2000 directive requiring drillers to have reliable backup systems if technology like shutoff valves fail. Sen. Nelson is right to call on Interior's inspector general to investigate.

Lesson: For energy consumers, the spill is an in-your-face reminder that over-reliance on oil has a price we will one day find too dear to pay, not just in sending dollars overseas but in oil's environmental damage worldwide and its major contribution to climate change. We must wean ourselves off oil and develop viable sources of renewable energy.

As for alternatives to drilling, Interior's decision last week to allow the first wind farm off Maine's coast is far preferable. The United States is years behind Europe in generating wind energy. Continued...

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