Car Camping in the Combat Zone
Who in his right mind would go camping solo in the Bootheel?

Net Positive
New sustainability director Nick Sussillo

The Great Wasp War
The call went out to the lads of Silver City: This means war!

Pay to Play
The fledgling Las Cruces Vaqueros' field of dreams

Kiss of the Prairie Dog
Black-tailed prairie dogs once numbered in the billions

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About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   July 2010


Oil Addicts R Us

Don't let that spreading oil slick get your conscience all gooey.

Have you ever gone to a family reunion and met that one weird, alienated relative whom nobody really knew what to do with? Maybe it was your Aunt Enid who smelled like baby powder and soup, sitting in a corner with her nascent goatee and missing eyeball as she made inappropriate comments about all the teenaged boys in the room. Eventually, at some point between all the handshakes and back-slapping, before the serious drinking and fist-fighting began, Aunt Enid became a sort of familial persona non grata, a genetically related 800-pound gorilla in the kitchen nobody wanted to make eye contact with or acknowledge for fear of an awkward situation.

Now, imagine dear ol' Aunt Enid is the largest oil spill in the history of the planet. Getting harder to ignore every day, isn't it?

As of late June, pundits estimate that the remnants of the Deepwater Horizon well are lubricating the oceans with up to 2.5 million gallons of crude daily. After two months, that's 150 million gallons. Alaska's Exxon Valdez spill, touted as an environmental apocalypse in 1989, was a mere 10.8 million gallons. Even the most ecologically oblivious Americans are aware of what a major event this is, including Dick Cheney, who is snickering in his secret underground bunker somewhere right now.

But this is America, and we must not forget the principles upon which our great republic is based: to wit, we need a scapegoat. The list of candidates is compelling, and none more so than our newly minted Commander in Chief, who earned a golden ticket to the White House less than two years ago with promises of change and hope. President Obama "hopes" that you'll "change" the channel, because this sort of nasty business isn't supposed to happen on the watch of the anti-Bush.

Did President Obama don scuba gear and dive to the ocean floor, wielding a hacksaw and vandalizing the pipe? No, he did not. Did he have anything to do with the permits, licenses or operations needed to operate the Deepwater Horizon well? Nope. Did he attend a lot of fundraisers, play golf and go on vacations while the Gulf of Mexico was getting lubed up? Well, yeah, he did, but the man's under a lot of pressure. This isn't his fault.

Okay, so it must be the evil oil overlords of British Petroleum, those snarky earth-raping Limeys and their craven ilk, right? Well, as the fourth-largest corporation on Earth, BP has a lot of irons in the fire. Losing a $560 million piece of equipment isn't a business model that engenders success, nor is an accident that claimed 11 lives (a tragedy that seems to have been overlooked in all this). Sure, something happened, and accidents by their nature are preventable in hindsight. The company is responsible, but is it to blame? Not even an oil-slicked pelican could claim that BP did this on purpose.

Uh-oh. We're running low on scapegoats. Maybe it was the Bush administration's fault! That worked really well for eight years; maybe we can go extra innings! Sure, W facilitated oil exploration and drilling, but what did we expect? He is a Texan, for Pete's sake — and them boys know about oil. But President Obama announced an expanded offshore drilling and oil-exploration program in March, which means he really isn't in much of a finger-pointing mood. If you listen closely, you'll hear Dubya snickering with Dick in that underground bunker now, clinking their beer bottles together.

Golly, who is left? How can we assign blame for this catastrophe so we can rest easy at night, kicked back in the La-Z-Boy lounger and sipping on scotch, knowing we have fulfilled our responsibilities to the environment? In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Take a look in the mirror, my oil-consuming compatriot, and you'll have found the party responsible for this fiasco.

In a speech before both houses of Congress, the president said that we need to aggressively develop new energy sources that free us from fossil fuels, while initiating programs that will conserve energy and create new, clean energy sources. Freeing this nation from its dependence on oil is a matter of national security, as well as helping us protect the environment. Unfortunately, that was part of President Gerald Ford's State of the Union Address on Jan. 15, 1975 — 35 years ago. We have done nothing to improve upon his proposed energy policy that was never adopted anyway.

Oil exploration and retrieval are expensive, messy propositions made more so by arduous environmental and government regulation, which still can't guarantee that accidents won't happen. Tankers will still sink, pipelines will still break, and drilling rigs will still fail. We need our energy, and to place blame on the people providing it is idiotic. We are paying them to do it.

The magnitude and severity of this ecological disaster are without comparison, and will be felt for decades to come. Instead of cranking up a battalion of lawyers and coordinating congressional hearings designed to give elected officials a forum for posturing their outrage, we need to get serious about the choices we make for energy. Even Jed Clampett, who was just out hunting possum for dinner when he found his bubblin' crude, knows that big oil means big problems. Why can't we show more leadership and intelligence than the "Beverly Hillbillies" and start affecting the change we've known is needed since 1975?

Because it's easier to not think about it, and ignore the problem, just like we ignore Aunt Enid when she falls asleep in the bowl of Cheetos.


Henry Lightcap cleans the oil off pelicans in his own hidden bunker,
somewhere in Las Cruces.




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