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BP taking heat from activists for oil rig disaster

As oil from the BP rig continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, activists are stepping up to hold the company to account.

Last week, the Energy Action Coalition organized 45 “Crude Awakening” vigils, rallies and events around the country to mark the one-month anniversary of the offshore drilling disaster. (Click here to see a preliminary report, with pictures and links to local news coverage, on the actions.)

In London, two Greenpeace activists scaled BP’s office building and “hoisted a flag depicting the firm’s logo covered in oil and with the slogan ‘british polluters’ above the entrance in St James’s Square.”

And perhaps most significantly, a boycott of BP is taking off. Public Citizen is calling on folks outraged by what’s happening to pledge that they will boycott BP’s gas and retail products for at least three months.

Ultimately, however, we should use the horror of this environmental disaster to push for more fundamental change. As Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, writes:

…cash compensation for economic harms caused — while necessary — doesn’t bring back destroyed ecosystems and does little to mitigate the company’s culpability for not preventing the blowout in the first place.

The only good that can come out of the BP disaster is if it forces the United States to fundamentally reorient energy policy. As a matter of simple common sense, the Obama administration should reverse its new policy and stop offshore drilling expansion. More fundamentally, BP’s oil gusher is yet another reminder of the need for a massive shift away from fossil fuels and to investments in efficiency and renewable energy.