McKaskill, Obama and the Black Black Oil

Question: When an alcoholic leaves a bar, gets behind the wheel and drunkenly drives into his third or fourth wreck, do you blame the bartender who served the drinks or the alcoholic who drank them? Now answer this: When a society addicted to greater and greater fossil fuel use experiences what may amount to the largest oil spill in world history – after a growing number of other fossil fuel catastrophes – do you blame the oil company that drilled for the oil or the society that uses it? – No Impact Man

There are twin narratives going on about the socio-ecological catastrophe unleashed by BP, or Beyond Petroleum as they’d prefer to be called (though admittedly that particular PR campaign is on hold for the moment).

In gas-guzzling, air-conditioned, drive your chevy to the levvy,  drill, drill, drill-America the narrative is essentially: focus on the company and the fact that they are British. ‘Blame the foreigner’ is a great game, some would say a national past-time. This plays well with everyone, from right-bonkers Tea Partyers, to Obama Liberals desperate for someone to blame and dead-sure not to frighten the horses of the mulit-powerful oil industry or the holy-grail of American society: cheap cheap gas for your big car.

In Britain it’s essentially ‘cling to technology’. Screeds of newspaper supplements and websites show us cross-sections of BP’s latest techno-wheeze and marvel at their ingenuity. The unspoken story is ‘whatever we break we can mend, we can defeat nature’. The sub-plot to the newly installed Shock Doctrine troops at No. 10 is also, “my god we cant have BP go down on our watch after we just had the banks collapse.”

How many hospitals and nurseries would we have to close if we had to bail-out Big Oil?


Boldly inhabiting what the company called “the energy frontier”, BP dabbles in “synthesising methane-producing microbes” and announces that “a new area of investigation” would be geo-engineering. It brags and its pliant media regurgitates that, at its Tiber prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it now had “the deepest well ever drilled by the oil and gas industry” – as deep under the ocean floor as jets fly overhead!

But now there’s a new game in town: “lets confuse the hell out of everyone by introducing Libya, Megraghi and Kenny McKaskill!”

Anything but anything confront the reality that it is not one single company that caused the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster but our entire society’s complete dependence on the stuff. We have a problem that is endemic,global and systemic to our way of life. Our oil dependency is our achilles heel.

Watch now as the Scottish media start foaming at the mouth because Maghraghi isn’t dead yet. The bogus ‘respect agenda’ ends here as the special relationship (position: prone) trumps any respect for Scottish autonomy and Cameron buckles under the glamour and glare of Obama and Hillary Clinton.

As Naomi Klein has asked:

“How long will it take for an ecosystem this ravaged to be “restored and made whole” as Obama’s interior secretary has pledged to do? It’s not at all clear that such a thing is remotely possible, at least not in a time frame we can easily wrap our heads around. The Alaskan fisheries have yet to fully recover from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and some species of fish never returned. Government scientists now estimate that as much as a Valdez-worth of oil may be entering the Gulf coastal waters every four days.”

BP, and the whole world’s oil addiction is reponsible for this. But reading their pre-disaster ‘safety-reports’ (sic) is illuminating. Even if there is a spill, BP confidently predicted that, thanks to “proven equipment and technology”, adverse affects will be minimal. Presenting nature as a predictable and agreeable junior partner (or perhaps subcontractor), the report cheerfully explained that should a spill occur, “Currents and microbial degradation would remove the oil from the water column or dilute the constituents to background levels”. The technobabble prevails.

From a Scottish perspective its interesting to think how wedded we are still to the notion of ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’ and how essential and liberating (in all senses) it would be to shift from this to ‘It’s Scotland’s Wind’. Actually it’s not but it’s a catchy slogan.

Not only is it essential that we move rapidly to a low-carbon non-fossil fuel dependent economy, but that we stop blaming others for our predicament.

‘Drill baby drill’ can be replaced with ‘Blow baby blow’ and nobody can ‘steal our wind’.

In this grand narrative unfolding across your newspapers today Kenny McKaskill is to borrow a phrase from an earlier stitch-up ‘just the patsy’.

No Impact Man is showing at the Big Tent Festival, Friday 23 July at 9.00 in the Take One Action Solar Cinema.

Comments (3)

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  1. Tocasaid says:

    Good article. However, Scotland should seek to take full advantage of her oil wealth while it lasts. There is a risk but life is risk. Further, how many such disasters has the state-owned StatOil in Norway caused? None as far as I’m aware.

    Similarly, if we approach wind power with the same ‘free for all’ and ‘build it big’ centralised mentality, we will damage the environment too. I support wind farms but not on the scale that was proposed for Mointeach Bharbhais on Lewis. Make it small scale with the running of it managed by the local community and then maybe we get somewhere.

    Fact is, human existence will always exploit and ‘damage’ the environment to some degree. Both oil and wind should be exploited either by the state for the benefit of all or by local communities for their own benefit first.

    Gus am bi Alba shaor le gaoth agus ola.

  2. Sean says:

    I much prefer ‘It’s the people’s wind’.

    Of course, I understand the sentiment behind reclaiming oil wealth for an independent Scotland.

    However, if you look at Ireland; another example of a ‘free’ country happily exploiting its resources, you won’t find a content, equal Irish people but the likes of the people of Rossport up in arms against the laying of a gas pipeline by Shell, and being battered by state thugs (i.e. the gardai) as a result. No sharing of profits for them!

    Norway’s a much nicer story – but it’s still a state, which exploits and defends profit before real human needs. And, needless to say, its state-procured oil is no more clean than the same we get from the likes of Shell, or BP.

    We can say we want to run things and that we want to be free from this shit but it’s not the nation-state that’ll deliver that.

    An tìr, na daoine agus an t-ar-a-mach!

  3. Tocasaid says:

    Seon – good points. Probably why I’d prefer Scotland looks to Norway for inspiration despite our Gaelic ties to Eirinn.

    Here’s good news/ deagh naidheachd from na h-Eileanan Siar though on the go-ahead for community owned windfarms:

    An tir, na daoine is ar-a-mach bith bhuan!

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