Breathes there an oilman with soul so dead he doesn't give a flip for pelicans and oysters? One can't presume to say no, but the question before the house isn't one-dimensional: how shall we save the oysters? Part two to the question is, how do we keep the economy running without resorting to things unlovely in the eyes of those who dwell on Manhattan's Upper West Side and like venues of perfect knowledge and objectivity?
The refined minds and sensibilities one finds outside the grungy oil patch know of course what's to be done: green energy is the ticket (solar, wind, etc.). One can sympathize. Green sounds so … green; cool, soothing earthy; most unlike the grunge from below. The trouble, of course, is that green is expensive compared to oil and coal. Nor, if we started today and didn't care about cost, could we replace eventually, the brown stuff -- estimated 70 billion barrels of oil below the Gulf seabed? Or, as Krugman elegantly phrases it, "a few barrels of oil."
The British Petroleum accident -- whose full consequences we obviously can't classify yet or predict -- has plenty of forerunners in industrial history on land as well as at sea. The world would be altogether a nicer place if things perpetually went as planned. It wouldn't be the world, nonetheless -- the place we yearn to make perfect while, if we have any sense, admitting to ourselves it ain't going to happen.
Away from the Upper West Side, in the real world, we strive for the best and the highest. And when we mess up, we get up; we move ahead, eyes on the Big Picture.
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