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Gulf poisoned, Obama seeks new road

15:25, May 21, 2010

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By Li Hong

More than one month after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20 about 80 kilometers south of U.S. Louisiana coast, the gushing of black oil into the Gulf of Mexico hasn't been stopped, creating a massive and potentially the most devastating environmental calamity.

Now, a toll is just beginning to be taken, but more severe and heart-breaking pictures are to emerge. On May 20, exactly one month after the rig blowout, chocolate brown and vividly orange globs and sheets of foul-smelling oil began coating the reeds and grasses of Louisiana's southern wetlands, home to rare birds, mammals and a rich horde of marine life.

Local officials also are concerned that part of the slick might be swooped into the Atlantic loop current and washed to Florida shores and far beyond, inflicting a crushing impact on ecosystem. The economic damage is expected to add up to billions of dollars, as one of the world's richest fishing grounds is all but destroyed, and tourism and seafood industries are battered.

Environmentalists are pessimistic because it will take up to 20 years or much longer for the wetlands and sea life to come back to prior-spill level.

Whose fault? In a narrow sense, British Petroleum (BP), the company that did the drilling must take the majority blame. And, a string of lawsuits and economic punishments are just around the corner waiting for it. In a broader sense, all the world's oil consumers, owners of oil-sipping vehicles especially, need to bow their heads to the Gulf. And, the Obama administration is facing the heat, too.

BP did terribly this time. Following the explosion, it failed to plug the undersea oil-gushing well, because its contingency "fail-safe" valves did fail them. Then, it was slow to ask for help, relying on its own resources to plug the hole. BP's laggard has already drawn fire from American public.

And, anger and uproar might erupt later if investigations find the energy giant did not tell the whole truth of the leakage volume. One month later, the world got to know that the oil gushing at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is much bigger than the company previously estimated. So far, millions of gallons of crude have polluted the ocean.

And, it has become clear that what has started as an oil spill has become an uncontrolled gusher with economic and political consequences. Some media and online commentators have moved their fire of criticism to the White House, chiding its reckless response and not acting decisively and swiftly enough in the first place. For sure, the government regulators should have intervened much earlier, and take over rescue and crisis management from BP.

And, three months before this disaster, President Obama announced support for expanded offshore oil drilling as part of his government's energy policy. The opposition to the decision will run wild, as people begin to question his political acumen. As the world's largest oil consumer, couldn't Obama administration think of other effective ways to lessen its reliance on the liquid fossil fuel?

Automobiles convenience us a lot, but solar power and plug-in electric cars will prove to be sustainable and environment-friendly ways to power our vehicles. America could lead us in that field.

I hope Obama's moratorium on offshore drilling in the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon, including in the Arctic, will be permanent. Also, from now on, all American home roofs are hooked to shiny solar panels, and tax exemptions or even refunds are bestowed to buyers of electric cars. And, China, a rising car behemoth, must follow and go green.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hong has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.


Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."

Li HongmeiLi Hongmei

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.