I'm holding out a bit of hope that the recent ecological catastrophe - "oil spill" just doesn't work as a description when you're talking about tens of thousands of barrels of crude spewing out every day for more than a month - in the Gulf of Mexico will thoroughly discredit the idea of offshore drilling. Then I remind myself that I have to be realistic. There is money to be made in slurping up dinosaur stew that happens to be underwater, and as such we've got to get ready quickly for a constant struggle against politicians who place short-term enrichment - particularly, the favors that oil industry lobbyists and representatives give out to grease the wheels - over the long-term interests of those they ostensibly represent.
It's easy enough to see where the battle lines will be drawn next: the Arctic Ocean. At the rate we're going, in the next few years we will lose the northern icecap through the summer months, and all that open ocean with all its inferred oil resources - an estimated 90 billion barrels - is singing a sweet, sweet song in the ears of petroleum executives the world over. Shell Oil was even granted exploration licenses in the Beaufort Sea last year, but thankfully the issue has been tied up in the courts - as far as I know, there are no operating rigs up there yet.
That can't change. In my mind, we can't afford to allow these resources to be exploited. Notwithstanding the environmental impact of burning an additional ninety billion barrels of oil, or the degree to which access to such a bonanza would only encourage the continuation of our current situation, we cannot run the risk of a similarly devastating oil catastrophe in the Arctic Ocean.
Personally, if it was up to me - if I was World Archon, or whatever, because I like "archon" as a title - I would shut the rigs down to as great a degree as possible. We can't afford an oil spill anywhere, whether it's the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific or the Indian Ocean. Devastation is devastation, no matter whose shores the oil washes up on. The problem here is inertia - existing offshore drilling operations have bit down pretty hard, and they're not going to be coming up easily.
Ultimately, though, this does not come down to the corporations alone. Sure, corporations may be doing all they can to get authorization to drill in the Arctic, but while they have the money they do not have all the power necessary to do it on their own. The final word rests with governments. As far as I am concerned, any government that allows offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean - taking into account the recent disaster, as well as the need to radically transform the way our civilization is fueled if we're to make it through the twenty-first century in hale and hearty shape - would demonstrate that it is more concerned with the prospect of immediate enrichment than with the long-term interests of its people and of the world as a whole. And as such, in my mind, any government acting in such a manner would lose the moral authority to govern.
We give power to governments so that they can coordinate the things individuals can't, so that they can help ensure we live in peace and plenty. What we needs is a firmer awareness of the concept of the Mandate of Heaven. A short-sighted leap toward the paradigm of the twentieth century is something we can afford only slightly more than another ecological catastrophe.