By Calvin Palmer
Sarah Palin’s presidential election battle cry of “Drill baby, drill!” seems to ring hollow in the light of the massive oil spill that is beginning to wash up on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
The massive oil slick measuring 100 miles by 40 miles threatens an ecological disaster that may well surpass the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.
President Barack Obama has pledged to “use every single available resource” — including the military — to help fight the oil slick.
A blown-out well a mile underwater is leaking in three places, spewing 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico — five times more than originally thought.
The leaks started after a drilling rig that British Petroleum (BP) was operating exploded and sank last week 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. Eleven people were killed in the explosion.
In an attempt to mitigate damage from the slick, BP has asked the Department of Defense if it can provide better underwater equipment than is available commercially, said chief operating officer Doug Suttles.
The request comes just as President Obama dispatched Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to help with the spill. The president said his administration will use “every single available resource at our disposal” to respond.
In the conservative Florida Panhandle, charter captain Jim McMahon said the spill changed his mind.
“I am pessimistic about this,” he said. “It could be devastating to the fishing and tourism industry. People aren’t going to come to a beach if they have to step through tar balls.”
Republican Gov Charlie Crist, who surveyed the massive oil slick this week and called it “frightening,” backed off his support for offshore oil extraction.
“It’s the last thing in the world I would want to see happen in our beautiful state,” said Crist, adding that there is no question now that lawmakers should give up on the idea this year and in coming years.
“Until you actually see it, I don’t know how you can comprehend and appreciate the sheer magnitude of that thing,” said Crist.
That magnitude was lost on bikini-clad Kiley Boster at Pensacola Beach, as she looked out at orange buoys and a boom designed to collect oil that approached an oyster bed and bird sanctuary near the shore.
“I would rather we drill here than spend another 10 years fighting a war and being dependent on oil from other places,” she said.
It was a sentiment that no doubted would have elicited “You betchya!” from the myopic Palin and her supporters.
President Obama recently lifted a drilling moratorium for many offshore areas, including the Atlantic and Gulf areas.
Today, he ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to report within 30 days on what new technologies are needed to tighten safeguards against oil spills from deep water drilling rigs.
Environmentalists sense that this oil spill could swing the balance of opinion in their favor.
“This event is a game changer, and the consequences, I believe, will be long-lasting ecologically and politically — and will be irreversible,” said Richard Charter, energy consultant to Defenders of Wildlife.
For BP, the financial cost of the spill is enormous. The company is spending $6 million a day on trying to contain the spill but the costs to the company extend far beyond that expenditure.
Since April 20, the company has lost more than $20 billion in its stock market value as investors have begun to realize the cost of the clean up to BP could amount to more than $3 billion.