Spewing Oil: On Personal Choices and New Energy Regulation

Real Estate, Land Use & Construction Law

Spewing Oil: On Personal Choices and New Energy Regulation

Jun 7, 2010 | Real Estate, Land Use & Construction Law

Deepwater HorizonFor the first time since we started the blog, I have gotten stuck in place unable to write. Like everyone, I have watched the oil spewing into the gulf with horror, frustration and a sense of the inevitability of this type of disaster when dealing with extraction and transportation of oil.

I will leave the judgments and politics to other blogs, but I agree with what Paul Anater’s remarks at Kitchen and Residential Design: the oil spill is a mirror. We can all point fingers at BP and gripe about regulations or lack of enforcement, but at base level it is our collective hunger for disposable and other products that helps create this disaster. It is our car based transportation and related land use planning to helps drive demand. As Paul Anater said so eloquently:

My spending habits and my need for speed and convenience created the whole mess. Every time I buy a dollar bottle of shampoo or a $4 T-shirt I give my consent to the whole system. I vote with my money and so does everybody else. Calling for the head of Tony Hayward, BP’s Chief Executive, won’t stop any of this. It won’t clean up the Gulf and it won’t stop the world’s dependence on (artificially) cheap oil. Boycotting BP won’t help either. The Deepwater Horizon disaster is their fault and their problem, of that there can be no doubt. But this disaster could have happened at any offshore platform anywhere in the world.

Not all is bleak. We have the ability to make choices that can aggregate to significant change. There are signs this may be happening on a generational level. Per Richard Florida and Nate Silver, we may finally be seeing a generational shift in automobile driving habits. Locally, we Montgomery County Maryland passing a carbon and energy tax and Arlington Virginia considering adopting a long range comprehensive energy plan.

Shifting gears, we need clear direction on energy policy at a federal level as well. Local efforts to bolster energy performance by the City of Albequrque have already been challenged on the basis that federal regulations preempt the ability of states and localities to create their own regulations. Shari Shapiro reported last week that Washington State’s building code is now facing a similar preemption challenge. If we are going to move past the dominance of fossil fuels, it is going to take comprehensive land use planning, appropriate energy efficiency regulation and improvements, and each of us collectively making decisions that push towards reduced energy usage in the future.


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