(REAL TIMES MEDIA)—Imagine you have a roommate. You didn’t necessarily want a roommate, but you live a pretty expensive lifestyle, and you’d rather have a roommate than budget your money better to actually afford your place. You and your roommate have a decent relationship, occasionally you bump heads but essentially you need each other. Unfortunately there’s one big problem, your roommate is messy. Every couple of months he makes a huge mess in the kitchen and never gets around to washing the dishes. No matter how many times you tell him to clean up, no matter how much the kitchen smells, or how high the dishes pile he never gets around to cleaning up the kitchen. Morally everybody knows that you should just refuse to wash dishes until the problem gets so bad the roommate has to clean it up, but you just can’t wait that long. Whether he likes it or not President Barack Obama is going to have to “wash the dishes” with the BP gulf spill, unless Americans are willing to dump their oily “roommate.”
For more than six weeks the nation has watched as oil has spewed out from a broken pipe underneath an off-shore drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico run by BP oil. This has been an unmitigated financial and political crisis for the Obama administration. The gulf region has barely recovered from Katrina thanks to the historic incompetence of the Bush administration and now huge oil slicks the size of football fields that run almost 100 feet below the water’s surface have spread out as far as Florida threatening the economic health of the entire south. As Obama continues to threaten and chastise BP to clean up the mess, the oil giant continues to prove either unwilling or incapable of cleaning up the huge mess they created.
The real problem here is that American’s don’t realize what kind of roommate situation we’re actually dealing with. BP oil is the fourth largest corporation in the world, and they are so intimately tied to the British government and royalty that penalizing or punishing them is almost impossible. Plus, BP owns the insurance company that covers them, Jupiter Insurance LTD. What that means is BP will recoup almost all of its losses without having to justify anything. Imagine you owned your own car insurance company and knew that no matter how many speeding tickets you got, your premiums would never go up. That’s BP times a thousand. BP is the rich roommate, they don’t care if the dishes are dirty, they’ll just go out to eat every night.
The problem is that the United States is stuck in a dependant relationship with BP, and the government is no more adept at fixing this disaster than BP is. Basically, Obama is tired of washing the dishes and is insisting that the roommate do so, which is fine, but then what? At some point the leak will stop but is the president going to reverse his reversal on offshore drilling? Not likely. Will he demand that BP give the United States discounted oil for the next five years to make up for the billions lost in this disaster? Not likely either. Will the United States citizens band together and seriously boycott spending money on BP gas stations and affiliates? Maybe. The biggest issue that needs to be looked at when it comes to this crisis is what happens next? If there is no substantive change in American energy policy after the BP oil spill then we will find ourselves in the same situation sometime down the road.
The left has complained for years that we spend billions of dollars and lives fighting in the gulf for oil, and yet sometimes people ignore billions in environmental damage done by our insistence on oil use back home. The solution is to get serious about alternative energy that would limit our dependence on foreign wars or multinational corporations for our energy needs. If we made more of our own fuel through biodiesel, solar, wind and hydro perhaps it would take more work but in the long-term it would give this nation the independence it so desperately claims it wants, not only from foreign wars but unhealthy domestic business entanglements as well. It might be time for Americans to pick up a second job to pay for our lavish lifestyle, our roommate BP may help with the rent but overall the partnership is getting way too expensive.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)