As I write, an oil slick the size of Belgium is drifting into shore along the coast of Louisiana. A U.S. state with whom Canada shares deep Acadian roots. A U.S. state that didn't need more trouble.
The details of this first-class environmental disaster are disturbing. The first response (putting the fire on the oil platform out) may have been a fatal error, since the fire was likely a far less damaging problem than the consequent collapse of the rig and uncontrolled gushing of the well. Failsafes at the wellhead failed. British Petroleum is widely quoted saying that a relief well might take two to three months to drill.
Hopefully there will be some better news soon. Hopefully the "drill baby drill" crowd will draw the obvious lessons (but don't hold your breath).
Hopefully Canada will draw the same obvious lessons about proposals from the same companies to conduct similar "development" in Canada's high arctic (but is our Conservative government capable of anything but cheerleading when it comes to the oil industry?)
And hopefully this tragedy has put another nail in the worldview our current national government is a junior colony of.
What British Petroleum has done in the Gulf of Mexico is what Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and the rest of the rogue's gallery have done to the global economy. This latest tragedy is therefore a perfect symbol of our times - and also a reminder that the consequences of limitless greed and mindless deregulation have been socialized with amazing speed. There being no more committed Marxists than corporate boards seeking to pawn the costs of their decisions onto the public sphere, which they otherwise do everything they can to tear down.
Who will pay to clean up the Gulf of Mexico? Don't bet it will be the shareholders of British Petroleum.
Who will pay for the same cleanup required in the broader economy? The bill for that cleanup has already been slipped to our children and grandchildren, in the form of bailouts and stimulus funded by suddenly limitless public debt.
In the United States, Republicans are smacking their lips, saying the Gulf tragedy is Barrack Obama's fault. In reality, it is just another reminder of the central message of these times. People like that can't be trusted to run anything, anywhere.