Sunday, August 8, 2010

Disappearing Act

When the Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded in April, it set in motion a litany of lies: first that the crude oil entering the Gulf of Mexico would have a negligible impact on the ecology, followed by weeks of vastly underestimating the quantity of oil being emitted, unchecked, into the sea. Even the underwater images from BP's control center proved to be doctored. Never mind that the accident, which killed and maimed dozens of workers, happened in the first place because of safety regulations that were ignored and alarms that were dismantled.

Now BP tells us that the more than 200 million gallons of oil have "disappeared." The miles of reddish tarry tendrils that were being tracked from space have miraculously dissolved, they tell us, so now we can go back to worrying about Castro's prediction of nuclear annihilation and the possibility that Sarah Palin will be the next Republican presidential candidate. 

The disgraced oil conglomerate's explanation would be risible if it wasn't just flat-out insulting. By this point we should have learned not to believe any magical thinking encouraged by their public relations machine. The reality of the situation is far more dire: unprocessed crude oil, unlike the substances normally released by oil tanker incidents like the Exxon Valdez accident, has an entirely different composition and physical properties than treated crude. So instead of merely dissipating and disappearing, the thick blankets of oil have sunk far below the surface, creating unimaginably vast oxygen-deprived kill zones that will have a much more profound impact on ocean life and the food chain than the floating lakes of oil that coated and killed so much surface life already.

Why are we so willing to accept corporate lies? Because we're so used to hearing them, for one thing. But mainly because ignoring a truth so impactful and long-reaching is so much easier in the short run than confronting the horrific reality.

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