The Gulf Oil Spill is a tragedy and it is obvious that the ecology and the economy of the Gulf will be devastated for years.
However, this was just one spill, from one oil rig. While I am not confident regarding my sources, I have read that there are over 3600 other rigs in the Gulf and perhaps (according to Answers.com) 3.5 million rigs worldwide. I don’t see much benefit to punishing BP beyond restitution for economic damages. They didn’t want this to happen, and they are doing everything in their power to stop it. What the problem is is that they had thought it was worth the risk not to take the preventative measures necessary to avoid this catastrophe.
Similarly all the other oil companies appear to have had similar attitudes, lobbying against greater regulation in Washington. My hope is that this event, at the very least will make oil companies consider spending the money to create the technology necessary to prevent this in the future.
I need to say that consumption also needs to be address. BP only drilled so deep because they new we Americans would pay top dollar for every gallon of it. They only supply it because we demand it. If we stopped using oil, there would be no financial reason to keep drilling in riskier and riskier situations.
That said, I am not sure the situation is reversible. I am no oil expert or drilling expert, so maybe I’m wrong. But even if we completely stopped using any oil (which is probably both impossible and unnecessary) we would still have 3.5 million holes in the bottom of the ocean (I’m still really skeptical about that number). Perhaps oil companies totally plug wells when they’re done with them. If not, governments need to assure oil companies that they will be held responsible down the road for future spills whether or not the wells are operational.
Perhaps the current spill will lead to better preventative technology, and more responsible consumption in the future, even if it is only motivated by economic necessity.