By Mark Glover, Guest Blogger
After 45 days and millions of gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico I continue to see the focus of criticism, blame, and anger directed at British Petroleum. It is my opinion that this environmental crisis goes far beyond BP. This is not a BP issue, it is an industry issue, a global issue, an environmental issue, and most importantly, a leadership issue.
Like everyone else I have followed closely the events surrounding the oil spill in the gulf, the sudden acceleration of motor vehicles, the contamination and recall of food products, the emergency landing of aircraft in the Hudson River. These events do not happen by accident; they happen because businesses and industries are not in what I call “organizational equilibrium.” By this I mean that there are not as many people or resources ensuring the safety and effective production of goods as there are people and money needed to sell and distribute them. Every industry and business within that industry has responsibilities to uphold a standard of ethics, good manufacturing practices, and to play a role in developing regulations that safeguard the public and environment from catastrophe.
What I expect to see with a catastrophe like the one in the gulf is for leaders not just from BP, but ExxonMobil, Gulf, Chevron, Texaco, Shell, and CITGO to pool their vast technical and financial resources to execute a solution. Instead, what I witness are companies in the same industry going out of their way to distance themselves from the issue and hoping somehow to capitalize on the misfortune of a competitor. Don’t get me wrong here, I have no sympathy for BP or any other oil company that has for decades been taking resources from the earth and reprocessing these materials into products that hurt the earth. But, what I am saying is that this oil spill, the 24 hour news coverage, the underwater video stream of the oil leak that is digitally counting up the number of gallons spewing into the gulf is the beginning of the end for big oil in the U.S. If the other oil producers who are sitting back strategizing about potential increase in market penetration haven’t figured it out yet, they have just lost more than they will ever gain back.
The world is becoming ever more cognizant of the growing environmental impacts we as humans are having on the planet. Events like these drive the need for change and act as the catalyst for the development or refinement of new technologies. At a time when battery operated vehicles, and solar and wind technologies are within the grasp of large scale use and production I do not see any way that this event will not tip the balance of thinking towards the acceleration of alternative energies. I guess there is always a silver lining! This oil spill is not over, and before it is we may see as much as 100 to 150 million gallons of oil dumped into the Gulf. With ocean currents, hurricanes, weather patterns, and animal migrations it will spread far beyond the current confines of the Gulf and consequently have global impacts. Its destruction to the environment, ecosystem, economic vitality, and the cleanup needed to correct it will take decades and cost trillions. Yes, I said trillions.
What is most alarming to me however is not the leak itself, not the lack of industry support, but the lack of true leadership. There always seems to be plenty of time, money, and leadership to clean up after a crisis. Again, this is no longer a BP issue and due to the delay of oil industry leaders to band together and to through their full resources behind, this is it no longer a industry issue. This is national Issue! On Day One the President should have authorized FEMA to take over jurisdiction and create a focused leadership team with BP, Transocean, and oil industry leaders to bear down and execute a solution to this situation. After all of the criticism by our current administration during the election of the former president on his handling of Hurricane Katrina, it is amazing to me that so little effort to expedite a solution or to hold those responsible to task has been done. Here is my message to President Obama, “There is nothing more important going on in the nation than this spill. If you are unable to show the American public that you can lead and deliver results to end this crisis now, like big oil in the U.S., it is the beginning of the end for you and your administration. “