Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Deep-water oil drilling and the precautionary principle

A judge who had (and may still have?) investments in petroleum companies has cancelled Obama's six-month ban on deep-water drilling (read here).

His argument: because one oil rig exploded and killed people, devastated the surrounding coastal and aquatic ecosystems and decimated the livelihood of thousands of people, that doesn't mean they all will.

True, clearly. But that's not the point, and I'm pretty sure this judge is smart enough to realize that.

The point is this event has caused excessive harm, and it should give us pause. A moratorium on drilling allows time to review regulations to ensure they are adequate, and that they are being followed in the industry as a whole.

The U.S. government is making very wise use of the precautionary principle in their decision. The precautionary principle states that when something is SUSPECTED to be harmful to the environment and public, precautions should be taken even when the harm has not been scientifically proven. Instead of going ahead because "it hasn't been proven harmful," stop and analyze because "it hasn't been proven safe." This is especially relevant for chemical use in plastics, pesticides, etc.

I understand that many, many people rely on the oil industry for their livelihoods and that the ban deeply affects them. But the spill deeply affected many, many peoples' livelihoods as well. There has to be a time when we step back and re-evaluate. This is the time. I'm so glad Obama's administration acknowledges that.

As for Judge Feldman, should his involvment with petroleum companies be a factor in judging his decision here? Most people these days agree that there is no such thing as 'unbiased,' as we all have our backgrounds. However some biases are more concerning than others. The article states it's not clear whether Feldman still has stocks in these companies.

Is this guy looking out for his own interests, or are journalists just searching for a captivating headline? Perhaps it comes down to worldviews. Maybe those who tend to invest in oil simply aren't those who tend to side with the precautionary principle.

No comments:

Post a Comment