Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Externality

ex·ter·nal·i·ty    (ěk'stər-nāl'ĭ-tē)
n.   pl. ex·ter·nal·i·ties

1 : the quality or state of being external or externalized
2 : something that is external
3 : a secondary or unintended consequence

I'm really not trying to be melodramatic here or lay out a big guilt trip but I think these types of accidents are critical for making ourselves realize the consequences of being an oil-addicted civilization. We won't see an extra 5 cents tacked on to our next total at the pump to pay for this disaster clean-up, but we are all truly paying for this accident in complex and long-lasting ways. We cannot afford to shy away and plug our ears.


  1. Booth,

    As it becomes more clear that the Gulf oil spill is going to become an environmental disaster of literally epic proportions, I am interested to hear what your thoughts on the political impacts of the disaster are? More specifically, is this the kind of major disaster that can turn public opinion in favor of the climate bill and more accountability for industries such as the oil industry?

    It seems that this coupled with the recent mining disaster could start to make people realize that there are externalities associated with our fossil fuel-dependent economy that are very very very very bad. Probably more of a hope and prayer at this point, but still curious to hear what you think.

  2. I think it's too early to tell. Unfortunately, we don't have the greatest track record as far as internalizing any suffering that takes place on the Gulf Coast and then changing national policies accordingly (see Hurricane Katrina). I'm hoping that this disaster will open the eyes of your ordinary fossil fuel user into thinking "Hey...the price at the pump really doesn't include all of the costs that this product incurs on the country and the world as a whole".

    But if this accident does change our national policies on off-shore drilling, that doesn't mean that it will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. In a perverse way, it might shift our fossil fuel purchases to some other region of the world where these types of spills happen on a much more regular basis due to far fewer regulations.

    We'll have to wait and see...