May 17, 2010

The tragic face of ‘drill, baby, drill’

Posted: 05:26 PM ET

Commentary by Philippe Cousteau, special to LKL Blog

Editor's note:  Philippe Cousteau is the son and grandson of famed ocean explorers and filmmakers, Philippe Sr., and Jacques Cousteau. He is also the Chief Ocean Correspondent for Planet Green. 

The sun was blazing down as I walked up to the door of the little shop we had come to visit on Dauphin Island, just south of Mobile, Alabama. 

This was my last day visiting the Gulf region after the devastating oil spill of only a few weeks earlier.  The trip had started out earlier in the week with a briefing by scientists and field staff of the Ocean Conservancy, one of the leading ocean conservation organizations in the United States, who have been on the ground since day one of the disaster.  That briefing had also included a helicopter trip to survey the damage from above to get an overall picture of the scale of the disaster.

Joined by members of the Ocean Conservancy, my team and I had driven three hours from New Orleans along the coast.  This trip was not only to survey the environmental damage, but also to spend time with the individuals who live along the coast and whose lives are being forever changed by this catastrophe. 

All I have heard about on the news for the last few weeks was how much the environment was being affected; and while that is a very real crisis, I was also curious about the human face of this tragedy.  While there has been some talk of how the oil spill is affecting people, it has concentrated on folks like shrimpers and fisherman who are being directly affected.  But what of the mom and pop grocery stores, souvenir shops, hotels, restaurants and other small businesses who rely on the tourism that usually thrives at this time of year?

A bell rang on the old wooden door as I opened it and walked into the shop on Dauphin Island.  I was immediately greeted by Bogart, a young male Shitzu, whose enthusiastic reception belied the seriousness of the situation.  After a scratch under the chin, I turned my attention to the owner who stood patiently with an outstretched hand and warm smile.  She was expecting us and it wasn’t long before we were deep in a discussion about the spill and its effect on the region.  “This is the busiest time of year for people who live along the coast. Normally this place would be packed and I wouldn’t even have time to speak with you,” she said with noticeable worry in her voice.  “We are down at least 50% from last year because people are cancelling their trips even though the oil hasn’t reached us yet.  My husband died in January and left me with this business and I don’t know if it will survive the season.” 

The face of this tragedy was unfolding before me and the true cost of our addiction to oil was painfully visible in the eyes of this woman.  Then something really interesting happened.  I asked her what she thought about the oil industry and her look changed to one of anger.  “I feel betrayed,” she told me. “I supported drilling because I honestly thought that the oil companies would be prepared for a disaster…that they could take care of it.”  Then from behind the counter her daughter-in-law responded, “She hates it when I say this, but I think the problem is that we need to consume less.”

Sure enough the owner immediately conveyed her displeasure with that notion, lamenting this new idea of using less and living in smaller houses as ridiculous.  Here was the battle for the soul of America, laid out in front of me. 

A battle of generations, the older, who holds on to the old American dream of more and bigger even though the consequences of that dream were threatening to ruin her life, and the younger who was questioning whether or not we should be living a different way and angry that industry and especially the government wasn’t doing more to break our addiction to dirty energy. 

Earlier that day I had met with Casi Callaway, the executive director of the Mobile Baykeeper, an environmental hero who is on the front lines of this disaster and who has spent decades fighting for the environment in Alabama.  “We have a battle on our hands,” she reminded me.  But it wasn’t until later that afternoon, standing in that little shop surrounded by t-shirts and mugs and assorted odds and ends that I realized just how serious this battle is. 

This is a battle not just about ‘Drill Baby Drill,’ but about a bigger decision we face.  Will we continue to follow the false dream of fast food, big cars, obnoxious mansions, and dirty energy that is causing obesity, cancer, asthma, and so many other ills to our society?  Or will we choose a different path, one that recognizes, in the words of John Audubon, “That the world is not given by one’s fathers but borrowed from one’s children.”

You can learn more about Philippe Cousteau's organizations at and

Filed under: Environment • LKL Web Exclusive

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Joe G. (Illinois)   May 17th, 2010 6:15 pm ET

Why waste so much time?
Why doesn’t Borak Obama appoint a Gulf Oil Spill Czar?

Does he need a Czar to appoint a Czar?

Smith in Oregon   May 17th, 2010 7:00 pm ET

Independent Scientists have found and proven what I have been actively complaining about since day ONE regarding the HEAVY CRUDE OIL gushing out of the Mercado Oil field exploratory well-head rupture.

Namely, the specific crude Oil gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico IS NOT LOUISIANA LIGHT CRUDE, it is HEAVY CRUDE composed of 50% Asphalt.

For WEEKS, BP and CNN Guests have erroneously repeated BP's talking points which include the misinformation that the crude Oil from this exploratory well is regular Louisiana Light Crude which mostly rises to the Ocean surface where it can be captured or dispersed.

Independent Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. Their discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well is far worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

You wouldn't see that with Louisiana Light Crude which the BP mouth-pieces and the Coast Guard Admiral have been MOUTHING.

From day one, University of Louisiana Earth Science Dept. tested a sample from this specific well, found and reported it was HEAVY CRUDE OIL with 50% composed of Asphalt.

Over and over I have stated and shouted the BULK of the spill is beneath the surface and for the first time, independent scientists in cooperation with NOAA took a look and YES I WAS CORRECT.

In my opinion BP are crass and callous liars, the Coast Guard Admiral likely doesn't know this is NOT regular Louisiana light crude and is simply mouthing BP's talking points who supplied him with that FALSE information.

Why is it important? The BULK of the Heavy Crude Oil remains deep below the surface and it is very difficult to disperse or biodegrade Asphalt components.

Folks, in a refinery Tank Farm, the largest tanks hold 500,000 gallons (1/2 Million Gallons).

To fit just one of the located huge undersea Oil Plumes you'd need a tank 10 Miles Long, 300 foot tall and 3 Miles across!

Imagine how many MILLIONS of gallons of crude Oil are in just one of the huge Oil plumes which is 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick.

CNN and viewers, please do not be fooled by the BP PR spin as they repeatedly show and discuss the relatively thin layer floating across several thousand miles in the once pristine Gulf of Mexico region.

The Bulk of the Spill consisting of many Millions of Gallons of heavy crude Oil is beneath the Ocean surface. Insist on showing video taken by Independent agency's of beneath the Gulf of Mexico's surface.

Rose   May 17th, 2010 7:15 pm ET

Palin's support of Drill-Baby-Drill in 1.5 million acres "initially" in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska was not wise. Pres. Obama continues to oppose drilling there because of the potential harm it could cause protected wildlife.

Besides the danger of spills and leaks, the required network of oil platforms, pipelines, roads and support facilities would interfere significantly with wildlife. BP's oil spill in the Gulf has stalled a push to open up areas near Norway’s islands, home to Arctic cod spawning grounds and sperm whales.

BP operates four fields in Norway, with a development in the Norwegian Sea. Hopefully better regulations will avoid further tragedies. Obama's recent support of off-shore drilling was to accommodate oil loving Republicans and conservative Democrats – to help achieve bipartisan support for the Federal Climate Legislation. We need to address the issues of our consumption, corporate profits, destruction of the environment, people's livelihood and related industry deaths.

Smith in Oregon   May 17th, 2010 7:16 pm ET

Widespread LEAD poisoning occurred across America and the entire World when the Republican lawmakers biggest supporter Big Oil added Lead to Gasoline for decades even thou it was well known that chronic lead poisoning would lead to serious health problems to those exposed. AND that knowledge has existed since the fall of the Roman Empire who accidentally poisoned themselves by using leaded water pipes.

Many of the chemicals found in Crude Oil are carcinogenic. The primary chemical in Gasoline is BENZENE, a known carcinogenic. As America and the World see's the gigantic DEAD ZONE resulting from the current Oil Spill across the Gulf of Mexico why do they think it is different if those same Petrol Chemicals are poured into your ground water, city fresh water intakes, poured into the air you breathe and saturated in the sea food you eat?

IT is entirely the result of Big Oil, Big Coal PR spin-misters. Of course they don't want YOU to realize that. And yet YOU foot the bill if you get ill or poisoned from Big Oil or Big Coal and in effect American taxpayers and Nations residents around the world foot the health costs themselves, Big Oil and Big Coal is not being forced to pay for the total costs incurred by pouring their toxic Petrol-Chemicals into the environment.

The Big Oil and Big Coal FANTASY is that collecting, using and burning their products does not result in a toxic dead zone. The highly respected Lawrence of Lawrence Livermore National Lab scientists tested and found a great deal more radioactive pollution is emitted from Oil powered energy power-plants that burn millions of pounds of Coal per day. Trapped in those millions of pounds of Coal are radioactive elements that are then released via the smokestack onto the unsuspecting community's and citys across America.

Earle Richmond   May 17th, 2010 8:15 pm ET

I find it quite amusing that you do not hear dear Sarah Palin's voice over the loud speaker yelling -- drill, baby, drill. She has been impeccably quiet the last week or so, which must be very difficult for her. Once the news of this oil spill ends up on the back page, I am sure Sarah will surface with oil laden slime.

IKHAN   May 17th, 2010 9:51 pm ET

Hi Larry,
any way you look at the Gulf Oil Spill there is no detracting from the fact that it is a disaster of enormous proportion regardless of the composition of the crude. Of course the Big Oil PR would try leading us the rose path, equally enormous amounts of money are at stake.
I am already hearing murmurs of continuing with off shore drilling in some quarters.
@Earle Richmond. You wouldn't hear Sarah Palin's yelling for now, she is too crafty for this. And then she is busy defending the Arizona Immigration bill, courting lobbies like NRA & doing other things vital for the welfare of this nation, to stay in the lime light. You get my point?

Jay b   May 17th, 2010 10:13 pm ET

Drill baby Drill will soon lead to Spill baby Spill.

Chris Jones   May 17th, 2010 10:40 pm ET

Just a thought, there must be a way of stopping the flow with concrete, There are special concrete mixes that can be used under water to fix this problem, Thanks and i hope it helps,

Smith in Oregon   May 18th, 2010 1:42 am ET

The huge resulting Dead Zone in the once pristine Gulf of Mexico is a full reminder of the real total cost of mining and using fossil fuels for America's main sources of energy.

How did the Republican lawmakers and their primary donors at Big Oil and Big Coal convince the world that the toxins and poisons released by their products didn't contaminate the end user, the water table, the food consumed and the air we breathe?

As Millions of viewers watch the unfolding ecological disaster across the Gulf of Mexico, the illusion appears to have broken down. People are beginning to realize they are not immune to the toxins and poisons inherent in Big Oil and Big Coal dependence.

Julie   May 18th, 2010 4:36 am ET

We here in Michigan had decades ago, some oil barge that went down. It took decades to finally clean up. It gummed up our beaches with tons of dead fish, and sea gulls and dead stuff and flies galore. When the wind blew the dead fish and oil would spread over 20 feet on shore. as long as 18 years later we still have black marks in the sand. I remember going later and black gunk would cover beach towels and suits. The unbearable stench closed our beaches for at least 15 years. People would come and try to rescue the birds washing them with Dawn detergent. Still they died. When I saw Palin say, "Drill, baby, drill", I have this thing where I cannot forget, Now, with this disaster and so much oil. this is Eco suicide. These people have no clue what is in store for them.

Ted   May 18th, 2010 8:22 am ET

Our lawmakers should demand triple safety devices on every oil well, not double, but triple to cut accidents to a minimum.
This should be delegated and not up for discussion!!
If any oil company have problems with the costs, they should forfeit and drill in their own livingroom. They make billions of profit every year, and based on expectations, those profits will grow and grow.

Luis B. Rosario   May 18th, 2010 8:40 am ET

To think back when BP installed the pipe, it was advised by
MMS to install a shut off valve called the :accoustic trigger"
( used in most parts of the oil drilling world) that would 've closed
the piple in case of a rupture. (a shut off valve is used on your
household pljummng. It is almost fool proof and guaranteed
to close the flow from the main to inside the house. The
requirement for the "accoustic trigger was eliminated by
MMS in 2003, when Dick Cheney replaced MMS public servants
with oil men management, BP refused to install the valve
saying that it was too expensive at $500,000.00. Now the
threee culprits of the worst environmental disaster in America
including BP and Halliburton(Halliburtorn the same thieve
that was accused of homicide and oil industry manipulation
in Iraq) are passing the buck about who did not do what to
prevent this catastrophe from happening. That is why we
cannot and shall not allow private industry to be in charge
of management of our natural resources and U.S.
security. Dick Cheney and former Pres. Bush were in favor
of privatizing the U.S. government's administration. The result:
the banking industry collapse, the housing market scandal,
outsourcing of all sensitive jobs to foreign countries and now
the " the worst oceanic oil spill in history.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   May 18th, 2010 9:40 am ET

Isn't coal a known pollutant and should be banned. This is probably contributing to the global warming.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   May 18th, 2010 9:58 am ET

This article saddened me with the truths ringing from it loud and clear.

IKHAN   May 18th, 2010 12:40 pm ET

Hi Larry,
@Luis B.Rosario

Very apt & pertinent. I quite agree.
Our politicians blinded by lust for clinging to power havn't learned from past mistakes. That's one reason we see this anti-incumbent mood gathering momentum.

Tom   May 18th, 2010 12:59 pm ET

Thanks for telling the human side of the story – beyond 'Top Hats' and 'blowout preventers'. this is going to be affecting communities for years.

Earl Richmond   May 18th, 2010 1:52 pm ET

Listen to the Russians. They solved the problem years ago. Komsomoloskaya Pravda, Russia's best-selling daily publication reported the use of explosives. Only problem. BP wants to hoard as much oil as they can at the cost of the environment.

LARRY LIVE HE’S THE GUY   May 18th, 2010 2:13 pm ET

This is sad. Shut down every oil company until they have some way to cut off the oil in the event of an emergency. This will never happen. Why? Washington is full of Oil people. Raise the MPG up to fifty or sixty. Will not happen they want us to buy their gas. We really need change. The change we got, shortchanged us. He’s selling us down the river. Bush started it and Obama is going to try and finish it.

Smith in Oregon   May 18th, 2010 5:10 pm ET

The true costs of Big Oil, Big Coal dependence for America's economy and energy is much higher than the Circus Clowns of the Republican-Tea party leaders are stating.

Their Karl Rove like spin-misters routinely spin the fantisy of cheap and abundant fossil fuels.

There is nothing cheap about American taxpayers paying for Millions of American's that have been poisoned by cheap and dirty Big Oil and Big Coal and now have chronic health diseases as a result.

There is nothing cheap about American taxpayers paying hundreds of Billions of dollars to clean up Big Oil and Big Coal toxic waste dumps, the effects of acid rain and the poisoning of fresh water supply's and America's food chain.

major barnett   May 18th, 2010 9:12 pm ET

it's sad to say it seems that the goverment is playing politics with
the oil leak. we as poor or nonpolitically connected are left on the sidelines cringing and sucking our tumbs from lack of power to make a change.

gerald Jolly   May 19th, 2010 8:29 am ET

When you get down to the final analysis, there is only one truth you can come out with.

It's all about greed and money, and too hell with the consequences.

Big oil still rules the world, and until we truly get serious about alternative energy, it will keep being that way

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   May 20th, 2010 3:28 am ET

Will the politicians be coming to the party..........and doing something about these oil companies. Like bringing in tougher safety regulations etc.........I wonder?????

Where are these oil companies profits going to I wonder, where they are even reluctant to spend on these safety measures. Get them all out there to clean up the mess they have made because of their scroogeness. Shame on them.


“Do not eat the food of a stingy man, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. ‘Eat and drink,’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you.” ~ Proverbs 23:6-7

Maureen, DC   May 20th, 2010 12:50 pm ET

Its interesting what the mother and daughter are going through, and the diachotamy that exists between the American Dream, and a shifting dream toward more conservationist ideals. Its nice reading that I'm not the only one who is conflicted. As a geologist, I see both sides of the story, and I have many friend employed by the oil industry. I truthfully believe people are trying to make changes, but I don't know if they will come quickly enough. There is loud opposition to conservation, alternative energy development, but clearly we cannot go down this path forever. Thats why underscoring the negative environmental and human impacts is so critical. Hopefully these efforts will be augmented with increased efforts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, so future generations will be able to critically analyze the sustainability of current U.S. energy efforts, and hopefully make better choices.

Earl Richmond   May 23rd, 2010 4:13 pm ET

I see CNN is hiding the oil spill blogs out of easy sight! I wonder why?

Becca Bailey   May 23rd, 2010 11:21 pm ET

If anyone runs into the Drill baby Drill girl please hand her a mop.

Ned   May 23rd, 2010 11:56 pm ET

Good article, Philippe. Needed information, on the ground.

troy hudson   June 8th, 2010 4:09 am ET

this is one we can not let the bad guys get away with ,we need to put a hold on all bp bank accounts ,just to start ,this is a real test for our goverment to stand up n do the wright thing befor bp files for bankrup statis then there will be no way to make them pay ,we as americans should not have to pay for the bush channy groop,this is a crime ,as a father of 3 sons i have tryed to teach my children that crime dose not pay but the bp problem and all that has happened in the last 8+ years shows crime dose pay in the usa with big oil n bush n channy groop,we as americans are in big trouble just watch ,food ,gas, and much more will go up n we will be made to pay,this one might be the one to kill off another part of our sea,we need to be watching all deep water oil drill sites now bleave me they are hiding much much more troy hudson in oregon ..

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