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Looking for the Public Outrage

2 min. read

Monday’s Washington Post piece, “Historic oil spill fails to produce gains for U.S. environmentalists was right, but not complete. So far, the BP oil disaster has brought tar balls and Tony Hayward into the public arena, but it has not brought about the dramatic sea change needed to move America to a clean energy future.

The piece is marred by its gratuitous repetition of the word “scandal” to describe the manufactured controversy around the content of emails that were illegally stolen by who-knows-which fossil fuel interest. The emails aren’t scandalous, and three separate commissions have said so. As other bloggers have noted, there was no scandal but a theft of intellectual property. The outrage is that the media pays so little attention to getting to the bottom of who stole the emails in the first place.

Reporters David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin missed an important reason why the BP Gulf Disaster hasn’t move public opinion: because the oil industry, the most powerful in human history, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on propaganda and influence peddling to smother public opinion and policy.

From BP’s illegal and unconstitutional co-opting of local police resources to corrupt local federal judges to tens of millions of dollars spent lying about BP’s commitment to “make this right,” it’s an all-out assault on reality that, so far, is succeeding.

Evidence of how effective BP's PR efforts have been can be seen in a new poll showing 73 percent of Americans now think a ban on offshore drilling is unnecessary, calling that the worst oil spill in U.S. history is a “freak accident.” Clean energy advocates are going to have to get a lot more aggressive pushing back against this reality-bending campaign, or else we’ll have more disaster just like it.

We don’t have any more fisheries we can afford to have permanently contaminated by a corrupt industry.