BP disaster a wake-up call for breaking oil addiction: Harkin

James Q. Lynch
Published: June 10 2010 | 9:48 am - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 2:35 am in
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Sen. Tom Harkin dismissed criticism of President Obama’s handling of the BP oil disaster as “Monday morning quarterbacking,” choosing instead to lambaste the “reckless corporate behavior” that led to the environmental and economic disaster.

The incident at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico was the result of “gross negligence on the part of one of the worst actors in the oil industry,” the Iowa Democrat said in a conference call with reporters June 10.

“And let’s stop calling this a spill,” Harkin said. “A spill is something that happens to milk.”

Regardless of what you call it, Harkin said it should be a wake-up call to the country to reduce its dependence on oil.

Harkin called for a redoubling of efforts to increase energy efficiency, including more ambitious fuel economy standards, and sharply reducing America’s dependence on petroleum.

“That oil addiction has dragged us into repeated military engagements in the Middle East, accelerated global warming and now is inflicting catastrophic damage on the environmental and economy of the Gulf,” Harkin said.

“How many wake-up calls are we going to ignore?” he asked.

And just as BP must be held accountable for the damage it is causing – and Harkin is backing efforts to retroactively raise oil companies’ liability from $75 million to $10 billion, the public has to take responsibility for its oil appetite.

“We, too, as a nation, must be held accountable for our destructive dependence on oil,” he said. “We need to act through legislation and our personal choices to create a new energy future for the United States.”

Iowa, he added, is leading the way.

“It’s time for a ramped up national commitment,” he said.

Congress will provide some help, Harkin said, when it passes legislation to extend the $1 per gallon production tax credit for biodiesel, the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon and the $1 per gallon production tax credit for diesel fuel created from biomass. The extension would be retroactive to Jan. 1.

Iowa congressmen say reinstatement of the tax credit would create enough certainty in the biofuels market to bring employees back to work almost immediately. Since the credits expired, Iowa plants have been idled and 90 percent of the biodiesel employees have been laid off as a result of the tax credit lapse, according to an industry association.

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