BP: OBLOQUY AT PRESENT FOR CERTAIN, BUT ALSO “BEYOND PETROLEUM”—WHERE WE NEED TO BE, a point violently underscored by the epic tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico that continues to unfold. And it’s wryly interesting, timingwise, how this follows hot on the heels of a ho-hum Earth Day anniversary and Obama’s call to resume domestic offshore oil exploration to bolster U.S. energy independence—reconsidered and cancelled post-Deepwater Horizon explosion, which, lest we forget, cost the lives of eleven crew members.
There’s also been a sizable wave made in the climate energy bill debate (see the New York Times story “Gulf Oil Spill Threatens to Rearrange Washington’s Climate Agenda”). Ah, our constant craving for energy to (em)power our lives, particularly in its crudest form, a liquid scream slithering from our distant past, hidden away far beneath the Earth’s surface, ornery oleaginous ghosts and amorphous liquified-fossil hobgoblins from yesteryear.
BP: Beyond petroleum is the brand tag and theme developed by Ogilvy & Mather for British Petroleum. “We want to build one of the world’s great brands by building an organization devoted to revolutionizing the world’s relationship with energy,” Lord John Browne, then-CEO of BP, was quoted as saying in Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003). How hollow those words now sound as the Gulf rupture threatens to surpass the Exxon Valdez Prince William Sound spill of two decades ago. Adding fuel, a senior BP executive informed members of Congress at a closed-door briefing yesterday that the well could conceivably spill as much as 60,000 barrels a day of oil—ten times the current estimate. Can this beast be stopped?
Getting beyond petroleum, honestly and realistically, is where we need to be. And safely harnessing new forms of energy in the amounts required to power our growing, demanding, let’s face it, insatiable world is no easy matter. That we already know. There is no silver bullet. It’s a challenge—perhaps the challenge of our age—that the greatest minds must apply themselves to and solve. Soon.
Humans have achieved so much, as have we squandered. As the great blob inexorably approaches the Gulf coastline, and authorities attempt to burn off yet another patch, and a giant steel trap is readied for containment like in some 1950s monster movie, we know we’re running out of time. Incentive enough?