Thursday, August 5, 2010

Think It Over: chemical dispersants.

When I was a kid, my dad would occasionally grill hot dogs for dinner. He would present the finished product with a flourish and announce, "No meat, all chemicals!"

I am reminded of this every time I turn on the news and listen to the current stream of forced optimism coming from the Gulf. In this case, it's more like, "No water, all chemicals!"

There is a debate going on over the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf oil spill. While some decry their use as more environmentally hazardous than the oil itself, others are announcing that dispersants such as Corexit (banned in the UK) are measurably less toxic than the actual spill.

I'm sure the fish and water birds are happy to hear it.

As a scenario in which nobody is winning, it's hard to decide where to point the finger of blame. Here are just a few of the arguments I've heard: If better safety measures had been in place, maybe the explosion that killed 11 and injured 17 wouldn't have happened. If we were less oil-dependent, maybe we wouldn't have been drilling in the first place. If BP had been quicker to respond, maybe the spill would have been less destructive. If better emergency plans had been in place, maybe chemical dipersants wouldn't be needed.

And on and on.

I'm not a toxicology expert. I'm not a C.E.O. facing international outcry. I'm not a government official looking for a way to please everyone and (at the end of it all) no one.

What I am is one voice among millions, asking if there's a better way.

What's your take?

1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid I don't have any magic answer--an admission which my kids would be astonished to hear.

    People have been telling us for decades that we need to reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources, but we insist on looking at best-case scenarios as if they were the only possible or only likely course of events. Then, when a predictable disaster hits, we (the general "we") are astonished.

    Not helpful, but that's my take!

    Marian Allen


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