Jerome Ringo: BP disaster demands national shift

“It will be even more tragic if we … refuse to adopt new energy policies that will increase public health and safety while creating a new generation of clean energy jobs.”

Guest blogger Jerome Ringo has worked as chairman of the National Wildlife Federation and President of the Apollo Alliance. Prior to that he spent 22 years in the petrochemical industry.  This is a repost.

As someone who worked for more than 20 years in Louisiana’s oil fields and petrochemical industry, I am sad to say I was not surprised by the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

During my youth, I saw bayous contaminated by toxic chemicals that destroyed the fish and other wildlife that should have been living there.

As an adult, I saw the health of my fellow workers and community members jeopardized by polluted air and water.

Now, as more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil pour into the Gulf of Mexico each day, I see the jobs that will be lost, the families and communities that will suffer and the impending devastation of our $2 billion seafood industry.

Think about the fishermen, the truck drivers, the restaurant owners and so many others who depend on this industry. Think also about the fish, birds, sea turtles and other marine life whose ecosystem has just been turned on its head.

There is a better way: clean energy.

While many countries have already embraced clean energy and adopted national policies to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewables, the United States continues to suffer from a reactive, outdated energy strategy. It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. House of Representatives passed its energy and climate bill (the American Clean Energy and Security Act), but the Senate has yet to begin serious debate on its own legislation.

Our policymakers are fiddling while Rome burns – or rather, while oil rigs burn and pollute our oceans and coasts.

Not only is America’s refusal to embrace clean energy endangering human health and wildlife, it is also costing us jobs, which are precious commodities in this time of economic hardship. Several energy companies, including GE and BP Solar, recently announced plans to invest millions of dollars to develop and expand clean energy facilities – not in the United States, where such investments and the jobs they bring are desperately needed – but in Europe and China. We need incentives for green energy jobs here at home.

Now is the time for the Senate to act. With photos of the oil spill on the front pages of newspapers across the country, Americans are starting to grasp the dangers of our country’s dependence on oil and other dirty sources of energy, and this awareness is being transformed into support for a new energy direction for our country.

What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico is a tragedy, plain and simple. But it will be even more tragic if we fail to learn from the oil spill and if we refuse to adopt new energy policies that will increase public health and safety while creating a new generation of clean energy jobs.

Let’s not wait for the death of another oil worker or the image of one more oil-drenched bird or the announcement of one more business shutting its doors before we commit to making the United States a clean energy leader.

Jerome Ringo, former president and current board member of the Apollo Alliance, is senior executive for global strategies for Green Port, a private company that focuses on establishing sustainable green ports around the world. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.

7 Responses to Jerome Ringo: BP disaster demands national shift

  1. Samantha Smith says:

    Obama folks gave the rig a safety award.
    By JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press Writer Justin Pritchard, Associated Press Writer – Sun May 16, 4:34 pm ET
    LOS ANGELES – The federal agency responsible for ensuring that the Deepwater Horizon was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that the rig be inspected at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows.

    In fact, the agency’s inspection frequency on the Deepwater Horizon fell dramatically over the past five years, according to federal Minerals Management Service records. The rig blew up April 20, killing 11 people before sinking and triggering a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Since January 2005, inspectors issued just one minor infraction for the rig. That strong track record led the agency last year to herald the Deepwater Horizon as an industry model for safety.

  2. lizardo says:

    Joe, please blog/link to the amazing “60 Minutes” report last night, because it explains so much about what happened and was a real game-changer and series of bombshells in my opinion, even after reading up for weeks on how offshore drilling works (and doesn’t). Cost cutting and time pressures by BP far more serious than previously reported. Thought nothing more could surprise me about this but my jaw was on the floor.

  3. lizardo says:

    Oh, forgot to mention, that the above story should have been all over the news by this AM but curiously, it is not, even though being picked up in Australia etc.

  4. mike roddy says:

    Ringo is a courageous and articulate man. There may be more whistleblowers like him in the oil industry, who are getting increasingly disgusted by the its horror. There should be a place for them to go.

  5. Elmo says:

    I’m beginning to see why Dick Cheney wanted to keep all of that information out of the public eye.

  6. Chris Winter says:

    I’ll second Lizardo’s recommendation of the 60 Minutes report. Mike Williams is a man of courage. He talked about several mistakes last night. I won’t go into details here, but the crucial one seems to have happened four weeks before the explosion, when a rubber O-ring called the “annular” was damaged. Williams reported this to his supervisor, and was told not to worry about it.

    I first wrote “but was told…” I changed it because this sort of insouciance is all too typical of the way whistle-blowers are treated (until they become whistle-blowers.) I look forward to more testimony from Mike Williams; but he can undoubtedly look forward to more grief if he does testify.

  7. Zan says:

    Good post and I appreciate the link to
    last night’s 60 Minutes.