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Not quite a disaster, but that doesn't hold back the capitalism

flickr photo/gavinsblog

flickr photo/gavinsblog

Hurricane Gustav didn’t cause half the mayhem weather forecasters predicted, but the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen reports that President Bush tossed the political red herring of offshore oil drilling into the choppy Gulf Coast waters anyway.

Why would Bush use Hurricane Gustav as an excuse to pitch offshore drilling? Maybe Naomi Klein has a hunch. The journalist and activist cited the rash of privatization and deregulation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an example of disaster capitalism in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Klein shows how proponents of truly unfettered free market capitalism have a history of using disasters – real or manufactured – to fast-track economic policies designed to unshackle the market’s invisible hand from the “distorting” effects of state regulations. Too often, the result is a rolling-back of government programs designed to help the least well-off while traditionally-public resources such as water or land are privatized, resulting in an anti-democratic consolidation of wealth.

So the President’s remarks might have made more sense if Gustav’s impact had been disastrous enough to distract constituents from the implications of such demands. Then perhaps he and supporters of this policy could have made a plea for offshore drilling to “benefit” residents returning to the damaged coastline. That didn’t happen, but you can bet Big Oil supporters won’t cease chanting “Drill, baby! Drill!”

Many scientists attribute the extreme weather across the world to the destabilizing effects of global warming. It’s insane to exploit the symptoms of global warming with money-making schemes that will inevitably exacerbate the root problem. We need clean, sustainable energy – not further oil speculation that, when all is said and done, will have a negligible effect on the price of gasoline (in what? A decade?).