Suddenly, we’re relearning the painful lesson that when technological solutions combine with corporate promises, we often get a toxic mix.

This lesson is literally oozing over us in the form of the Gulf of Mexico’s disastrous oil slick, brought to us by the deepwell drilling schemes of Big Oil profiteers. This particular well, belonging to BP, has been drilled beneath mile-deep water, and it plunges some four miles into the Gulf floor–presenting beaucoup possibilities for technological glitches.

BP and other oil giants, however, assured regulatory authorities and the general public that they were experts–so not to worry. There’s a one-in-a-million chance of anything going wrong, they claimed, promising that if anything did happen, they had the technology in place to handle it. Perfectly safe, they said; trust us. Indeed, BP had installed a steel-framed stack of valves, rams, tanks, and tubes called a blow-out-preventer (BOP) at the base of the well to seal it instantly if things went badly. Things did, and it didn’t.

The BOP didn’t work and…well, you know the awful price that thousands of people and the whole Gulf ecology are paying for BP’s ignorance and arrogance. Now, the corporation’s top honchos have changed tunes entirely, pleading that the technology is extremely difficult and dicey to deal with, so don’t expect a quick fix to stop the catastrophic gusher. “This is like doing open-heart surgery at 5,000 feet in the dark,” exclaimed BP’s chairman.

Once again, we’re paying the price of years of deregulatory, laissez-faire ideology pushed down our throats by corporate lobbyists and whorish politicians. “Get the government off our backs,” demanded Big Oil–and now we’ve got their crude slick all over us.

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Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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