Oil Spill Earns Place In History Books

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NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr contrasts the Gulf oil spill with other disasters that plague the United States.


We'll know within a day or two whether BP's efforts to plug the massive gusher have worked. It will take far longer for experts to agree on just how big this spill is and how it compares to previous disasters, but NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr thinks it will have a place in the history books for another reason.

DANIEL SCHORR: Superpower America, which once regarded itself as well-nigh invulnerable, now enters a new stage of vulnerability with a gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Terrorist acts notwithstanding, another threat lies with Mother Nature. From floods to earthquakes to fires, we have been at the mercy of the elements. And with Hurricane Katrina, we were left to criticize the inadequate response of government and the inadequate levees in New Orleans, but for the most part, the damage was beyond our control.

The Gulf spill is different in that it's manmade in its origin. In a large sense, this disaster is something we did to ourselves, and that being so, it has generated a carnival of finger pointing between government agencies and the companies involved in the drilling operation, which have spent untold sums on public relations to fend off a chorus of criticism.

BP has taken out full-page newspaper ads promising to do everything in its power to minimize the impact of the spreading oil and to pay for the cleanup. Some officials say on television shows that they're keeping a boot on the oil company's neck, while others in government say that drilling companies know the technology and are making a good effort.

Clearly, we will live with the effects of this disaster for many years to come. And it doesn't help much to observe that they, we, did it to ourselves, a vulnerability rooted in our desperate search for oil.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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