Monday, May 31, 2010

War Profiteering: The Biggest Threat to Democracy

Opening Statement
(Disclaimer: I have nothing but respect for our troops and our veterans. I did want to write this piece on Memorial Day, to give everyone else something to think about while we're honoring the memory of our fallen heroes. This is a discussion that should be renewed not just on Memorial Day, but every day that we're entrenched in two pointless wars. I hope that what you read here will shock you, and will cause you to scoff. Feel free to read any of the links posted here to learn more. I'm just scratching the surface.)

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
-Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower

The beloved Dwight D. Eisenhower, WWII general and two-term Republican president, made a chilling, cryptic prediction in his 1961 farewell speech. One can imagine that Eisenhower put much importance in conveying this message, as he chose these words to be the last he would ever say as leader of the free world, to a free people.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizen can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense, with our peaceful methods and goals. So that security and liberty can prosper together.

Eisenhower was a five-star general, or General of the Army. It is the second-highest rank in the Army, next to the honor bestowed upon George Washington and General John Pershing, General of the Armies. If anyone knew the inner complexities of the defense sector and the grave implications of a power-grab by the arms manufacturing industry, it was Eisenhower. And his warning to us was grave. We did not listen, and we grew complacent. And now, nearly 50 years after the speech, the military industrial complex is alive and well, and has taken hold of our government, and indeed, the global economy as well. In this piece, I'll be delving into exactly how much power the military industrial complex wields in Washington, and what we can do as citizens to restore democracy.

A Brief History of War and Money

"...As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
-Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21st, 1864

As Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II, Eisenhower was likely privy to the onset of corporate war profiteering through John Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company. More specifically, Standard Oil's sister company, IG Farben.

At the time, IG Farben was the fourth-largest company in the world behind General Motors, U.S. Steel, and Standard Oil. IG Farben had a facility near Auschwitz, and manufactured Zyklon B, which was the gas that murdered millions of Jews in concentration camps during the holocaust. Meanwhile, Standard Oil provided the fuel for both American military strikes on German arms factories, and for the Luftwaffe as they bombed Britain. Rockefeller profited from all of this, as IG Farben was the next largest stockholder in Standard Oil behind the Rockefeller family. Essentially, John Rockefeller was making big bucks off of World War II from both the Allied and Axis forces. From the above link-

"...The planes that made up the Luftwaffe needed tetraethyl lead gasoline in order to fly. At the time, only Standard Oil, Du Pont, and General Motors had the ability to produce this vital substance. In 1938, Walter C. Teagle, then president of Standard Oil, helped Hermann Schmitz of I.G. Farben to acquire 500 tons of tetraethyl lead from Ethyl, a British Standard subsidiary. A year later, Schmitz returned to London and obtained an additional 15 million dollars worth of tetraethyl lead which was to be turned into aviation gasoline back in Germany."

Rockefeller's war profiteering was the first most egregious example of a wealthy corporate entity lining its pockets with money made from the blood of thousands. This is perhaps what led Eisenhower to urge the citizenry to become aware and take action against such corruption and greed.

The Influence of Today's Military Industrial Complex

"You know it's funny when it rains it pours
They got money for wars, but can't feed the poor
Say there ain't no hope for the youth and the truth is
it ain't no hope for the future."

-Tupac Shakur, Oct. 28, 1993

While teachers are losing their jobs, children are being pushed into larger classrooms, states are cutting budgets, closing facilities and terminating public sector jobs all across the nation, when America is still in dire need after bankers ran off with billions of our tax dollars, Congress has just approved $600 billion in war funding for Afghanistan and Iraq. These two wars that have lasted almost ten years, and arguably very little progress has been made. Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, is still suffering from bad PR after he was embroiled in a scandal where he essentially rigged the election in his favor. We are withdrawing troops in Iraq, and are on target for the Iraqi government's demand that we vacate their borders by 2011. However, withdrawing troops and equipment still takes time and money, and Iraq still manages to eat into the budget, even with a new administration and different objectives.

Here are a few examples of astonishingly corrupt war profiteering, just in Iraq.

(Gruesome and disturbing content ahead)

1. At the Abu Ghraib prison, private intelligence contractors CACI and Titan, paid with US tax dollars, were caught torturing, beating and sexually abusing prisoners.

"We believe that CACI and Titan engaged in a conspiracy to torture and abuse detainees, and did so to make more money," says Susan Burke, an attorney hired by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), whose lawsuit against the companies is proceeding into discovery before the Federal Court for the District of Columbia.

2. Bechtel, contracted to build Iraqi infrastructure, was awarded a $2.4 billion contract by the Bush administration, but went wildly over their budget while far exceeding time constraints to complete those projects.

Additionally, Bechtel neglected to train Iraqi operators in maintenance of these facilities, and many of them have since fallen into disrepair. However, Bechtel still ran off with billions of profits made from American tax dollars for not doing their job.

3. Because there's no draft, private contracting of security and military forces has led to 48,000 such mercenaries in Iraq, doing jobs normally done by US Armed Forces, all paid for by US tax dollars. It's estimated that these mercenary contractors will be a $200 billion industry by the end of this year.

Most of us know about the notorious Blackwater (now known as Xe) firm, where mercs massacred Iraqi civilians in a city street, and whose founder, Erik Prince, has personally spoken about Blackwater being used as a religious crusade against Muslims. But one contractor not mentioned much is Aegis Defense Services.

Aegis, a U.K. based firm, was awarded a $293 million contract (taxpayer money) to supply forces in Iraq, despite lower offers from American competitors. With public money going toward the private sector, and with a private company not operating within the states, it could be argued that Aegis was chosen specifically to avoid accountability for any Blackwater-like incidents.

However, as one can see in this video, these mercenaries are clearly firing on civilian cars in Iraq. From the link above-

"...Moreover, An audit of Aegis activities conducted in April 2005 had reported that several of Aegis recruits had not received appropriate training in the use of weapons. In fact, 11 out of 20 surveyed were considered to be inadequately trained with regard to the handling of an AK 47.

...In addition to criticizing Aegis Defence Services Ltd., the audit took aim t the Army's contracting office in Iraq for poor oversight. It reported that the official who was supposed to keep watch over Aegis's contract had not been trained in either monitoring contracts or security. The office was also severely short-staffed: At the time of the audit, 41 officials were administering 6,500 contracts and task orders.

...A random survey of 20 Aegis employees who had been issued weapons -- including AK-47 and M4 assault rifles -- showed that the company did not have the needed weapons training documentation for 14 of them. As a result, auditors could not say whether "all contractor personnel are qualified on the weapons that they had been issued."

Despite these shortcomings, Aegis was found to be in compliance with its contract.

Additionally, Aegis and the Pentagon have yet to apologize to families of the civlians killed in that video. Aegis has defended its actions, saying they were operating under the rules of engagement. Untrained mercenaries, killing civilians, being paid with US tax dollars. And we're seeing more of this, not less.

There are numerous other examples of corporate malfeasance and criminal activity overseas. But let's take a look at how those guys operate in Washington.

Corporate Lobbying For More War
At the time President Obama announced the Afghan troop surge, top defense contractors had reported spending $27 million pushing for more war. In fact, their spending had gone up by $7 million in the 4th quarter of 2009, according to lobbying records. This, coincidentally, is around the time the president announced the deployment of 30,000 more young men and women to Afghanistan.

One of those contractors, Northrop Grumman, has even recently announced that it's moving its corporate HQ to Washington DC, in order to be closer to legislative action. As congress approved a $635 billion war appropriations bill in December, lobbyists for defense firms cited "appropriations" as their chief objective in public records.

As of January, the number of private contractors in Afghanistan have doubled in just a four-month span. Mercenaries purchased with tax dollars now account for 30% of all forces in Afghanistan. The military industrial complex is paying top-dollar for control of defense policy. And they're getting what they've paid for.


"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our
moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our
government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of
our country."

-Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1816.

Eisenhower's prediction has come true. The military industrial complex has usurped the democratic process, and private companies can legally make absurd profits directly from the murdering of young men and women. With war now seen as a business opportunity instead of a country's last line of defense of freedom from agressors, the military inudstrial complex can bypass international law and make money. To them, war is not the wanton destruction of lives, homes, and natural resources, but simply as another way to get rich.

As citizens, we have the power to stop this. We must do as Eisenhower asked us, and get informed about the complexities and dangers of the military industrial complex's erosion of freedom and democracy. Hopefully, reading this piece and the links within have helped you reach that step.

And as I implored all of you to do in my last piece, I urge all of you once again to find your Congressman and Senators, put their office numbers in your cellphones, and call them every day to end these wars. Ask your lawmakers to write and sponsor legislation that forbids the outsourcing of war. Vote for politicians who promise to make war a last resort, instead of succumb to the influence of war profiteers. Organize call-in days to Washington in your community. Bombard congressional offices with calls from constituents, and demand that your voice be heard and understood.

As we remember and honor our veterans today, let's take a stand as taxpaying Americans, as defenders of liberty, and demand our elected leaders put a stop to the corporate cheerleading of war.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Death of the Gulf Coast, and What Must Come

The End of All Gulf Life
Unlike my last piece on the oil volcano in the gulf, this article doesn't offer a small glimmer of hope. It's great that Bobby Jindal wants to build sand dunes to protect beaches, and that hair salons are donating used hair for more booms, and while that all may prevent the billionth gallon from leaking ashore, the damage has already been done. The Gulf Coast isn't dead yet, but by the time this leak is finally stopped, the damage will be irreversible. I would be highly surprised if even a fraction of the life that was in the Gulf of Mexico will be able to live in the toxic bile created by millions of gallons of oil and harmful chemical dispersants. This oil slick could very possibly kill every living thing that doesn't escape its perimeter. By the way, the slick is now estimated to be 45,728 square miles. To put that into scale, that's 728 square miles more than the Gadsden Purchase, which is basically the Southwesternmost corner of Arizona all the way to about halfway through New Mexico. The entire state of Mississippi is 48,430 square miles.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill has Louisiana's marshes, the prime breeding ground and hatchery for the country's fishing industry. We're confronted now with pictures of oil-covered birds in the news media. A toxic mixture of dispersants and oil could now be even more threatening to the already fragile ecosystems of the Gulf Coast. In fact, even if just three of the Gulf Coast's 1400-1600 sperm whales are killed by oil, that could endanger the Gulf's entire sperm whale species. That's an entire species, at risk of being wiped out because of an oil rig exploding 30 miles from the shore, and with no clear end to the leak in sight.

A lot has developed from the spill since I last wrote about it; the 5,000 barrel a day estimate is likely merely a tenth of what is actually being belched into the ocean each day. And that's a generous estimate. This spill could be gushing an Exxon Valdez-sized figure each week. BP and the government had been saying 5,000 barrels per day (42 gallons of oil in each barrel) and the media had been repeating that figure ad nauseam until a video emerged showing a natural gas and oil gusher. Through particle analysis, comparing scale of distance between the camera and the strength of the gusher, to be much, much more than the 5,000 barrel figure. It could actually be between 50,000 and 100,000 barrels. That's up to 4.2 MILLION gallons of oil leaked every day. At the time of this writing, May 25, oil has been gushing from the Deepwater Horizon well for 35 days. Which means so far, the oil volcano a mile undersea could have regurgitated up to 147,000,000 gallons into the Gulf Coast ecosystem. That's about 12 Exxon Valdez-sized spills. And counting.

And there is MUCH more natural gas leaking than there is oil, and you can see the natural gas via the video of the spill released by BP after pressure from the Coast Guard and the Obama administration. Natural gas sucks oxygen out of the ocean, which is a problem for all of us because the ocean and trees produce the world's oxygen. Along with sea life dying by the truckload, the ocean's natural functions are also in danger due to the Deepwater Horizon gusher. (If you've notice, I refuse to call it a "leak." This is far worse than a "leak" or a "spill." Can we phase those words out now when referring to this disaster?)

This oil volcano will affect marine species in the gulf for literally the rest of our lives. It may very likely wipe out all marine life in a 50,000 mile radius. And you can imagine the residual effects this will have on people who make their living through fishing, renting out charter boats, or through tourism. The damage is already done. And it is literally incomprehensible.

What We Can Do, Post-Oilpocalypse
A few months ago, in a 5-4 decision in the Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission ruling, the Supreme Court decided that because corporations are legally people, they can donate as much money as they want to a political campaign. My question is this- if corporations are people, then can we give them the equivalent of a death sentence if they commit acts that warrant such punishment?

Now, first of all, I sincerely hope that the "topkill" method of shooting mud and concrete into the pipe will work, and cap the flow of oil still gushing into the ocean. BP says there's only a 60-70 percent chance that it will work, because it's never been tried at a mile below sea level before, where up to 15,000 psi of pressure will have to be quelled. If this doesn't work, BP will likely follow through with their plan to drill an alternate well from another rig and siphon the oil that way, which means the oil gusher will continue for possibly several more months before it's finally stopped.

But frankly, the president has surprised me in how he let BP control the oil cleanup efforts, given that they frequently overlooked several red flags that showed the well they were drilling wasn't safe. And the fact that they grossly misunderestimated the severity of their mistake at 1,000 barrels a day being leaked daily. Of course, Mineral Management Services (MMS), the federal agency that was supposed to inspect the Deepwater Horizon rig at least once a month failed miserably at their job, as well, and allowed BP to get away with a vast array of safety violations.

But what's most surprising is that the strongest action that the federal government CAN take, legally, under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, has yet to be taken. That is, completely kick BP off the site and take over cleanup efforts. By allowing BP to clean up the site, and by failing to not deploy the national guard, or to divert extra military and civil resources to booming, barricading, and doing all they can to protect the marshes and the shores, damage has been caused that might not have had to happen. EPA Director Lisa Jackson can also push to debar BP from any further federal contracts, which would cost them about $12 billion per year.

Bush's historical legacy will likely be dominated by both his decision to invade Iraq in spite of international outrage, and by his administration's gross mishandling of Hurricane Katrina relief. Obama's legacy, while he's already accomplished far more in his first 16 months than any president in recent memory, has his legacy in jeopardy because of his lackadaisical, play-it-safe attitude towards BP and this oil spill. Even when I talk to die-hard Southern Republicans, they all talk about how they wish the government would do more about BP and the oil slick. The American people, conservatives included, all want the president to take a liberal, forthright, tough stance on the oil giants who all share responsibility for this catastrophe. Politically, there is everything to gain and everything to lose for this president when it comes to this crisis. I don't know what Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are telling the president to do, but I have a feeling he needs to stop listening to them and act like the progressive he was when he was campaigning, instead of being a play-it-safe centrist to BP and Big Oil.

Speaking of shared responsibility, I want to close with this.

Point the Finger at the Mirror
BP is guilty. Transocean is guilty. Halliburton is guilty. But this is not their fault, at least not directly. (Here's the part where a lot of you will stop agreeing with what I say and type something angry in the comment box.)

This incomprehensible disaster which will literally ruin the Gulf Coast's life for decades to come, is all our fault.

Maybe not you and I individually, but our lifestyle and extravangant petroleum-based culture, and our collective outrage whenever gas prices go up a dime, is what caused this mess. If you drive a car, fly in an airplane, or drink from plastic bottles, this is your fault.

If you live in America, this is your fault, because while we are 5% of the world's population, we use 24% of the world's energy.

If you live in a rural area, this is your fault, as city dwellers use less energy per capita than those who live in the hinterlands but still depend on city-provided utilities and electricity and drive cars.

And if you have children, this is also your fault, because your kids are also born and bred into a culture that encourages excessive consumption of resources, and will grow up consuming like we do unless our generation collectively decides to drastically change our lifestyle.

We can point fingers at BP and the government all we want, but there's still sludge dripping from our outstretched fingers. As long as our carbon footprint is what it is, then companies like BP, Exxon, Texaco, Citgo, Chevron, Shell and others will continue to drill deeper and deeper out into the ocean in order to satisfy consumer demand. As long as we demand cheap gas to fuel our excessive lifestyles, these companies will continue to engage in environmentally unconscionable acts so their stock prices will stay up. So we can keep living unsustainably.

To put this all in perspective, let me offer three key points-

-Exxon Valdez spilled 11,000,000 gallons of oil into the Prince William Sound.
-So far, the Deepwater Horizon gusher is spewing up to 2,000,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico per day.

And here's the kicker-

-The United States consumes 350,000,000 gallons of oil per day.

So, as bad as the BP oil gusher is, it's still only about half a percent of our DAILY consumption.

Do you see a problem here yet?

This is our fault. And if something good is to come from the death of the Gulf of Mexico, it must be comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. We must fight for it like the progressives fought for health care and financial reform. And unlike those two pieces of legislation, it cannot be seen as a child's vitamin (hard to swallow without being immensely watered down) but as vital to our survival and progression as a culture, as a society and as a species. We must become stewards of our planet.

This could mean sharply increasing the gas tax and using that money to put bike lanes on all highways. It could mean a tax on carbon emissions, forcing us to depend on energy sources that don't emit CO2. It could mean electing leaders who promise to uphold the environment for our future generations, instead of look out for the profits of Big Oil. It should definitely mean NOT electing candidates who say it's "un-American" for the government to criticize an oil company over their mistakes. Candidates and political parties who support unregulated, privatized, "free market" ideologies that showcase such an astounding disconnect with reality shouldn't be getting votes from any seriously concerned citizens. Period-point-blank.

Whatever the solution is, we must actively work towards it and not become lazy, cynical, apathetic, depressed, or discouraged. The 24-hour reactionary news cycle will, of course, put this story on the backburner after awhile when some new crisis arises, when an innocent is affected by tragedy, when some celebrity has a lusty affair. We'll be tempted to mindlessly drool in front of our TV screens, shrug our shoulders, say "well howabout that" and go on about working and shopping and playing.

Not taking action means that this environmental genocide will have meant nothing. And that history will likely repeat itself down the road. So vote. Keep the DC offices of your congressmen and senators in your cellphone, and call them every day and tell them to fight for clean energy legislation. Make phone calls for concerned candidates. Knock on doors. Sign petitions. Spread awareness.

We must not grow complacent.

We must fight.

We must change.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The American Chernobyl: Causes and Consequences of the BP Oil Spill

21 years ago, when Exxon's Valdez tanker spilled 10 million gallons of oil into the Alaskan shore, it was referred to as the worst man-made ecological disaster in history. That was 10,000,000 gallons, which made the ocean look like this. But it's looking right now like BP's Deepwater Horizon spill is going to be exponentially worse before the leak is finally contained.

So yes, there are undoubtedly going to be severe, long-lasting environmental problems that will take decades of recovery for the Gulf Coast. But as you dig deeper into the gritty truth of this massive catastrophe, one can't help but be paralyzed by the loathsome greed that was ultimately behind this particular disaster.

Comprehending the Magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe
The BP oil spill has been leaking at a rate of about 5,000 barrels per day since the rig blew up about a week and a half ago. There's a small wellhead on the pipes that stops oil from leaking anything more than that, although 200,000 gallons of oil per day is still extremely hazardous. But if that wellhead breaks from the erosion of the pipes, then that 5,000 barrel figure could instead mean 50,000 barrels per day. That's an Exxon Valdez-sized spill each week into the Gulf of Mexico, and it could still be months before the spill is contained. In the link above, the phrase "order of magnitude" basically means a multiplier of ten. That means as bad as it is now, if this wellhead breaks, this spill will literally become exponentially worse.

Nobody really knows how much oil is going to spill into the Gulf, because of how deep the drilling had gone. However, even more alarming comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whose leaked report fears a worst-case scenario of 2.1 million gallons of oil per day being leaked into the Gulf. Gov. Bob Riley (R-AL) says he is fearing even 150,000 barrels of oil leaked per day, or 6 million gallons. Again, it could be almost a quarter of a year before the oil stops leaking.

Choosing Between Bad and Worse
No matter how you look at the containment efforts currently underway, we can only choose between a bad scenario or a worse scenario. There could be a 4-story, 70-ton dome that would be placed underwater to contain the oil leak, where the oil would be pumped out from above the surface. However, positioning the dome is going to be tricky, seeing as going that deep underwater would mean that dome has to be incredibly resistant to pressure. And by the time it gets there, the damage could already be too great for the dome to have any effect.

Gov. Barbour (R-MS) told me about "dispersing" the oil. But as others have pointed out, dispersing is a term that basically means breaking up the oil slick into particles that will settle on the ocean floor. the oil doesn't actually go away, but instead just settles on the bottom of the ocean. Much of the Gulf Coast's economy revolves around the shrimping industry, and shrimp, along with much of the oceanic food chain, relies on bottom-feeding. There's no telling what kind of disasters, both for species and for the economy, could come from miles of oil on the ocean floor.

There's talk of drilling an alternate well that would funnel the oil out from the source through another pump. However, the source is 22,000 feet deep, and drilling down that far would take 3 to 4 months, even at the quickest possible pace. By that time, there's no telling how much oil will have leaked, and it could very well be a too little-too late endeavor.

No matter how you cut the cake, it's gonna be real hard to swallow for folks in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, or Texas. And given the pattern of the winds and Gulf currents, other states along the Eastern seaboard could be put in danger if the oil leaks around the Florida peninsula.

The Unconscionable Greed of Big Oil
No disaster like this has ever occurred in any other part of the world where oil drilling is done, because every country has a certain regulation that keeps something like this from happening. Every country except the United States, anyway.

That regulation is a $500,000 device called an "acoustic shutoff switch," which shuts off the flow of oil at the source in case of an emergency. Oil companies who drill in the United States have Dick Cheney to thank for the removal of that regulation. Dick Cheney, Bush's Vice President, used to be an executive of the Halliburton energy company. And you can bet Halliburton's stock went several points above the competition when the acoustic shutoff switch regulation was removed.

Let's also consider that the estimated cleanup figure for BP in this oil spill is $12.5 billion, which they have grudgingly said they would pay for out of their own pocket. To put that in perspective, BP's annual profit was $25.6 billion in 2009. I'm not the best at math, but let me try to break this down.


So, to set the record straight, BP, whose CEO was quoted as saying, "What the hell did we do to deserve this?" is going to have to forgo just under half of their 2009 profits to clean up the worst man-made ecological disaster in the history of Planet Earth. A disaster that will take decades to clean up and recover. That will ruin fishing and tourism industries in the South, and potentially along the East Coast. That thousands of species and ecosystems will possibly never fully recover from. Just under half of one year's PROFITS. Which means after all the operational and personnel costs have been paid out from their total revenues, they'll still cash an 11-digit check at the end of the year.

As mentioned earlier, the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded was drilling at a depth of 22,000 feet. Their federal permit only allowed them to drill at a maximum depth of 20,000 feet. So not only was BP allowed to bypass a law that had to be followed by every other oil-producing country in the world, but they were breaking oil-drilling laws in the country with the most lackadaisical regulations on the planet. So they could make $25,600,000,000,000 a year.

And by the way, I wouldn't have needed to write this if Dick Cheney didn't feel that $500,000 was too much of a burden for BP to bear before it started drilling offshore.

I don't have a positive or hopeful way to end this post. I could say that no matter how much the spill's cleanup will cost, or no matter the damage already done, the 11 families of those who died on the oil rig will never get back what they lost.

I could choose to mention how the oil spill will kill or taint the food eaten by species like shrimp or red snapper, which humans buy and eat themselves, which means we'll be eating tainted seafood.

I could mention that an Exxon Valdez-sized spill per week for 12-16 weeks will ruin beaches in the South and maybe the East, and will hurt the tourism/hotel/restaurant industries in coastal states. But we've all already heard the gloom and doom from the media, and repeating it won't make anyone feel any better, or reverse the damage that's already been done.

However, I can at least offer a glimmer of hope; maybe this will shake America out of its addiction to fossil fuels, and finally illustrate that a fierce dependence on finite resources can only lead in destruction such as this.

Maybe this will make Americans realize that the mild convenience of our petroleum-driven culture is of little importance when it comes to preserving the planet for our posterity. Maybe this disaster will finally scare our policymakers into incentivizing growth of green energy jobs in solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, hydroelectric, or even nuclear power.

Maybe American voters will overcome their apathy towards our political system and work to elect leaders who put the environment first, and corporate greed second.

And maybe those tax breaks can grow our economy into a green one that not only provides jobs and powers our homes here in the USA, but spurs other oil-dependent nations to do the same.

After all of this, I can still say I'm hopeful.

Are you?