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Blame for oil spill? It's your fault

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The great question of the day is: Who is to blame for the BP oil disaster that's dominating the news? There are many answers.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, known as the conservative's conservative, provided my favorite. He thinks God did it. At least he called the spill "an act of God," which is pretty much the same thing.

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An oil company goes out into the Gulf of Mexico to sink a well two miles into the bottom with a mile of water on top. When its equipment breaks down and the well starts sending vast clouds of oil into the environment, one of its bought-and-paid-for politicians blames God for the mess.

I can just hear God's response: "Now wait a minute. I'm willing to take responsibility for hurricanes, volcanoes, floods and earthquakes, even plagues of locusts if I'm in the mood. But oil spills? You yokels are on your own on with that one."

Still, I give the governor's answer high marks for originality. Texans must be proud.

My second favorite answer came from Sarah Palin, Alaska's gift to Tina Fey. She blamed President Barack Obama. Not for the leak so much as for taking "so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing."

Pretty much any politician can talk without saying anything, but it takes a kind of genius to make a statement that is so empty of meaning yet still works "doggone" into the sentence. It is a beautiful thing to see. She has the second-best answer to almost everything.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer was almost as ingenious as Gov. Perry. He blamed environmentalists who, he said, "have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off limits to oil production."

These environmental extremists have forced the poor oil companies to abandon remote areas like the Arctic in favor of regions where people live and work.

In other words, if only we had drilled in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, none of this would be happening today. Or, at the very least, we wouldn't know about it.

No wonder he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Then there are those wishy-washy centrists who say: "There's a lot of blame to be spread around." Or, "It doesn't do any good to point fingers."

They're all wrong. Blame spread is blame denied, and that's what fingers are for -- pointing.

In that spirit, I accuse ...

You. Yes you there, wearing your complacency like a suit of medieval armor, proud that you only have three cars in your family and that you keep the thermostat at 70 degrees in the winter.

It's not enough, dude, not nearly enough. We, as well as the other nations of the Earth who are straining to catch up with us, have gorged ourselves on cheap oil for decades without regard for the consequen-ces. The oil spill is a consequence.

BP is out there drilling in deep water to feed our oil addiction, just as the drug lords of Colombia and Mexico kill to feed our addiction to cocaine, pot and heroin.

And don't imagine that the BP oil disaster is unique or even very unusual. Oil spills, some of them gigantic, are happening all over the world, all the time. You don't hear about them because they're in Africa, Indonesia, or South America. No one cares, least of all the corrupt governments there.

Nor are our agencies free of the corruption (although the bribes given to our agency officials tend to be pathetically small). Still, they work.

As John Vidal, writing in The Guardian, a British newspaper, said: "If the industry were forced to really clean up the myriad messes it causes, the price would jump and the switch to clean energy would be swift."

But don't expect that to happen any time soon. And it's your fault.

OtherWords and retired Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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