In 1969 a blowout off the coast of California caused an 800 square mile oil slick. We kept drilling.
In 1973 members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries refused to sell us oil, causing an economic crisis. We invented the SUV and the McMansion to consume even more oil.
In 1989 the Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil along 1,300 miles of pristine coastline. We built more and larger supertankers.
In 2001 the son of a Saudi Arabian construction magnate orchestrated the worst terrorist attack ever on US soil. We went on to buy more oil than before, sending more of our money to Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries where, as Thomas Friedman notes, "it ends up with mullahs who build madrasas that preach intolerance."
In 2010 the BP blowout is destroying the ecosystems and the economy along our Gulf coast. We . . . .
Have we learned anything at all? Or will we increase our dependence on rapacious oil companies and despotic regimes once again?
We can and should blame BP for their reckless disregard of the environment in the Gulf of Mexico, the Niger Delta, and other places around the world where they and the rest of their industry have destroyed entire ecosystems and communities.
But they will never give us the solutions. The solutions will depend entirely on our own choices.
Will we choose to continue wasting energy? Or will we require that all cars, trucks, and buildings reduce energy consumption by 20% or more?
Will we allow oil companies to sell products that pollute the air and water without including the cost of that pollution in the price of the product? Or will we level the playing field for clean and renewable alternatives by imposing the type of pollution tax (or cap and trade system) favored by well-known conservative and libertarian economists such as Nobel Laureate and Reagan advisor Milton Friedman?
In 2020 will our children thank us for making the right decisions today? Or will they suffer even worse catastrophes brought on by our selfish, thoughtless, and unnecessary addiction to oil?
The choice is ours.