June 19, 2010


There's a school of thought about red light cameras that goes like this: "If people suddenly start making panic stops because there are red light cameras, it will create a dangerous situation."

More dangerous than this?

I don't think so.

June 13, 2010

Blaming BP isn't enough.

CNN reports that BP boycotts are hurting locally owned gas stations around the country. 
"I don't ever intend to use BP again," said Atlanta resident Monica Manuel who held up a cardboard sign, "Boycott big polluters."
- CNN, June 12, 2010
Well, Monica, I hate to tell you this, but you're boycotting the wrong party.  The guy who owns your local BP station has as much responsibility for the oil spill as you do.  In fact, he actually is LESS responsible for it than you are. (More about that later).
In 2008, the London, England-based oil giant announced it was exiting the retail gasoline business because margins were lousy. Today, the 11,500 gas stations that carry its logo in the United States are owned by independent franchisees...
CNN, June 12, 2010
You're not boycotting BP, you dimwit, you're boycotting your neighbor.

The story reports that the the troubled international conglomerate has offered to "help" the thousands of independent station owners.  The best way to accomplish that may be to let stations remove the BP logo, but I suppose they are going to make up for lost income.  A few weeks ago, I pointed out that BP probably can't really pay to clean up the entirety of the mess it's made, and this is one more example of why they will ultimately fail: the scope is far bigger than most of us can wrap our brains around.  It's not just a matter of capping the well, it's not just a matter of scraping a few beaches, it's not just a matter of rinsing off a few birds.  It's entire industries wiped out, businesses erased, fisheries destroyed, and all the hundreds of thousands of people who relied on those industries, businesses and fisheries. 

And we still haven't gotten to the full scope of the thing; the oil is still gushing into the sea as of this posting, diminished only slightly.

Here's why the boycott is stupid; BP doesn't own most of the stations displaying their logo.  These stations are franchises, bought, owned and managed by people like you and me.  So, the first thing about the boycott is that it's hurting the innocent.  The second thing is that while BP is responsible for the Deep Horizon accident, they are not responsible for the system that allowed it to happen.  And by that, I do not mean the Federal government and the MMS, although they certainly did screw the pooch on this one.

No, the real people to blame for the oil spill is all of us.  As a nation, each and everyone of us has contributed to the ravenous consumption of oil.  Each of us, each American driver, consumes more gasoline than any ten citizens of other countries combined.  Our personal obesity from fast food is left far behind our greed for gasoline.

If you drive to work alone, or instead of riding the bus or train, you're responsible for the oil spill.

If you drive to the corner for milk instead of walking or riding a bike, you're responsible for the spill.

If you drive a big SUV because you "like sitting high so you can see over the other cars," you are responsible for the spill.

If you take a drive "just to get away," you are responsible for the spill.

So don't feel self-righteous as you pass a BP station to fill your gas-guzzler at the next station down the road; you're still contributing to the problem.
Another protester, Ruth Resnicow, said it was devastating to see the wildlife on the Gulf Coast being affected by the worst oil disaster in U.S. history. "The oiled pelican has been a logo of the disaster. People need to see change."
CNN, June 12, 2010

Ruth is correct: we do need to see change.  But the change we need goes far beyond regulation of ocean drilling: we need to change the way we live.  Because ultimately, as long as we consume oil like a plague of locusts, we will continue to find excuses to cut corners to feed our gluttony.