Philippe Cousteau Gets Feisty About Fossil Fuels

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The same day BP finally threw a cap over their spewing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico (which is expected to be as effective as celebrity rehab) the non-profit Artists & Athletes Alliance held a private discussion with Philippe Cousteau about the epic Gulf disaster. Event attendees, like Jorga Fox, Alyssa Milano, Stephen Baldwin and Jason Mraz, were treated to Cousteau’s inside information about the spill and it’s consequences, and got a rare glimpse of his feisty Irish side when discussing BP, the government, and our dependence on fossil fuels.

Frustrated with the media’s B-level response to the BP oil spill, Cousteau decided it was time for “powerful storytelling and powerful images.” Acting on his words he made history in May when he dove into the oil slick only 20 miles from the site of the gushing Deepwater Horizon well. Wearing a dry suit to keep from coming into contact with the toxic mix of oil and dispersant, which hung, like a cloud, around him, Philippe said the combined compounds resembled “Chunky Campbell soup.”

Throughout the discussion Cousteau repeatedly stressed the fact that this spill is “unprecedented” and tried to explain why the Gulf disaster is so different from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound. The Exxon spill happened at the surface of the ocean when an oil tanker broke open, and spilled 11 million gallons of water into a bay, protected by land on three sides.

The Deepwater Horizon spill is occurring 1 mile under the surface of the ocean, 180 million gallons have spilled so far, and computer models are projecting the spill will spread to the Atlantic. Cousteau deemed the 86 days it took to get a cap on the well “unacceptable” and suggested that if we didn’t know how to clean up the oil then we shouldn’t be drilling for it in the first place.

I had seen Cousteau’s coverage of the spill on various networks and one delightfully unexpected treat is that he’s much feistier in person. (Obviously, someone is over editing the tapes – ABC, CNN, etc. let the man talk). Standing sometimes to make a point, swearing at others, he passionately pleaded for the government to stop subsidizing coal and oil and let it compete at it’s true market price against renewable energy sources. He tried to reason with his privileged audience, “The price at the pump is not the price we are paying.” Cousteau also repeated sentiments from the TEDxOilSpill conference held last month in Washington D.C., “We have underinvested in our oceans for decades.”

The event was moderated by eminent Louisiana physician Corey J. Hebert who has been treating children for post traumatic stress disorder since Katrina and expects the fallout from the oil spill to be worse due to the loss of jobs along the coast. As Dr. Hebert explained, “You can rebuild a house, but if you take away a person’s livelihood you take away their ability to feed their children.” In fact, Dr. Hebert was so impressive one woman behind me purred, “Cousteau is great and all, but who is that man up there with him?”

Going forward Cousteau and Dr. Hebert agreed that we should focus on the environmental legacy we leave behind; no child deserves an environment that is anything less than what we inherited.

While we wait to see if the well cap holds, and whether BP is held responsible for it’s actions perhaps we should also take responsibility for our actions and try to wean ourselves off our carbon addiction. After all… maybe the oil was buried deep because we weren’t suppose to find it.

Article by Raegan Payne appearing courtesy Celsias.

photo: lumis

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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