Four Possible BP-Style Extreme Energy Nightmares to Come

The disaster in the Gulf is no anomaly. It's an arrow pointing toward future disasters.

June 22, 2010 | Source: TomDispatch via Alternet | by Michael T. Klare

On June 15th, in their testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the chief executives of America’s leading oil companies argued that BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was an aberration — something that would not have occurred with proper corporate oversight and will not happen again once proper safeguards are put in place.  This is fallacious, if not an outright lie.  The Deep Horizon explosion was the inevitable result of a relentless effort to extract oil from ever deeper and more hazardous locations.  In fact, as long as the industry continues its relentless, reckless pursuit of “extreme energy” — oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium obtained from geologically, environmentally, and politically unsafe areas — more such calamities are destined to occur.

At the onset of the modern industrial era, basic fuels were easy to obtain from large, near-at-hand energy deposits in relatively safe and friendly locations.  The rise of the automobile and the spread of suburbia, for example, were made possible by the availability of cheap and abundant oil from large reservoirs in California, Texas, and Oklahoma, and from the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  But these and equivalent deposits of coal, gas, and uranium have been depleted.  This means the survival of our energy-centric civilization increasingly relies on supplies obtained from risky locations — deep underground, far at sea, north of the Arctic circle, in complex geological formations, or in unsafe political environments.  That guarantees the equivalent of two, three, four, or more Gulf-oil-spill-style disasters in our energy future.