Happy ‘Wear Your Birth Certificate to Work’ Day

In honor of the release of what White House officials claim to be President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate, intended to put an end to the “silliness” that is the “birther” argument, I present you with this T-shirt.

Be proud to be an American… and to have an American president!

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The Human Toll of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion

deepwater horizon fire photo by U.S. Coast Guard

CNN.com has an excellent photoessay documenting the experiences of the survivors and of some of the 11 killed in the April 20th explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which spawned the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Sixty days later, oil continues gushing from the ultra-deep well up to 6 miles beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

But what about the human toll? It’s not just the eleven lives lost in the tragedy and the many suffering as a result.

A huge portion of the Gulf Coast population is in some way connected to the oil industry as a way of life beyond the 20 percent working in the energy industry and those in the oyster and fishing industry affected by the spill. President Obama has called for an end to offshore oil exploration. But what are the alternatives? Many more jobs will be lost as a result of this disaster and the policies that result from it. It’s important that those distressed as a result receive adequate compensation. But it’s equally important that new jobs are created and that a culture that is very much rooted in the offshore oil industry is given the appropriate tools to transition into new ways of life. Where is the funding for clean energy plants and new, green construction in the Gulf? Where is the incentive for companies to establish themselves in the Gulf and commit to new projects that will lead to such employment?

As my dear friend Sloane reminded me yesterday: If you really want to know how the population is affected by the disaster, watch the local news.

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Obama Addresses BP Oil Spill from the White House Oval Office

In addition to the Facebook chat link provided with the Whitehouse.gov player above, YouTube is soliciting questions for the White House at youtube.com/whitehouse.

“This is the worst environmental disaster of our lifetimes,” the president said in opening a speech that started off sounded eerily like a declaration of a war with no end in sight, as we’re already fighting on two international fronts.

“I’m willing to look at different approaches. The one approach I will not accept is inaction,” Obama said. 18 minutes later, the speech is over and I’m not sure exactly what we CAN do.

Press Secretary Robert Gates later answered questions. Watch that video below:
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BP Has So Much Money to Lose. But Who Should Manage It?

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. – Jeff Phillips, Environmental Contaminants Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, rescues a Brown Pelican from the Barataria Bay in Grand Isle, La., June 4, 2010. State and federal wildlife services pulled approximately 60 Brown Pelicans, in the last two days, covered in oil from the Barataria Bay area. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ann Marie Gorden. Who do we trust when an exploitative company that makes more money than god claims to be fixing its mess, but is the king of an industry that has colluded with the government for years?

This seems to be one of the broadest and most frustrating takeaways of the crisis resulting from the ongoing Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill.

Under current law (Oil Pollution Act of 1990), a leaseholder for a deepwater port is liable for no more than $75 million per spill plus removal costs. Transocean, owner of the sunken drill ship, is liable for up to $350 million under the same law.

BP reported more than $6 BILLION in PROFIT for the first quarter 2010. That’s $60 million each day. Revenues from 2009 sales totaled $239 BILLION (about the same as Finland’s GDP). BP must pay.

But Obama and the government have only teased the idea of lifting the $75 million cap, much less seizing BP’s assets entirely.

BP claims to have already spent $1 billion on cleanup costs and small bundles of cash to the affected states. but BP itself estimates the total costs to be $6 billion. Then there are the mounting health concerns for humans and animals encountering the dispersants being used, as well as liability for obliterating the sea-based industries of the Gulf. Not to mention lawsuits already filed by the survivors and surviving families of the April 20 blast that led to the gusher. Credit Suisse recently estimated those costs at an additional $14 billion.

These numbers don’t mean very much. What matters is that some organization, public or private, must be left responsible for managing recovery funds. One that is independent of both BP and the U.S. Government. But who?

UPDATE: David Axelrod appeared on Meet the Press this morning and hinted at Obama leaning toward a fund managed by a third party. Another empty signal or the start of something? – Obama will demand BP establish escrow account to handle oil spill claims. Obama may ask for as much as $50 billion to start the fund when he addresses the nation Wednesday. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Photo via Deepwater Horizon Response‘s flickr (taken June 4, 2010, Jefferson Pa., Louisiana).

PBS Newshour’s Deepwater BP Oil Spill Widget

I’ve been tracking and writing about the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for Live Earth but I thought I’d note the excellent widget that PBS Newshour created to help users track and visualize the apparently unstoppable horror that has been ongoing for more than a month off the coast of Louisiana. Great work by one of the finest multimedia teams in the land.

It’s horrible and embarrassing that we’d give oil companies such extensive liberty so as to contaminate our waters knowing that there was no available technology to avert the inevitable disaster that we are facing right now. Personally I hope to see Obama get serious and put his foot down even more — this is the ultimate cause for concern about climate, energy, and the future.