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Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Where There's an Oil Spill, an Ink Spill Will Follow

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    NEWSLETTERS

    If we learned one thing from the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s this: where there’s an oil spill, there will also be a politician, looking to take advantage of it.

    After a pipeline burst in Michigan, spilling oil into the Kalamazoo River, Chicago politicians took notice that the river empties into Lake Michigan -- at Saugatuck, where a lot of wealthy Chicagoans own summer homes.

    First, Mayor Daley used the disaster to draw attention away from his resistance to a Michigan lawsuit that would force the city to shut the Chicago River locks before Asian carp can swim through.

     “Oil is worse than carp!” the mayor blustered, demanding that Michigan’s attorney general launch a criminal investigation into the spill. “Oil basically destroys your drinking water. ... Go down to the Gulf and they'll find out what's happening to the oil spill.”

    So now that the Great Lakes State itself is the source of a bigger threat to Lake Michigan, we can all forget about the carp for awhile. As if worrying about the Asian carp means Michigan is any less worried about a spill that, right now, is confined to its own waters. (Workers are now trying to stop the spill at an inland lake between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.)

    Alexi Giannoulias is also getting into the act. On his DailyKos diary, Giannoulias used the spill to reiterate his call for ending oil dependence and finding alternative sources of energy:

    [A]s long as we rely on oil, our coastlines and communities will be threatened by oil spill disasters. … We need real solutions to permanently shift our nation away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy. I’ve said it before and I'll say it again -- I believe that America’s energy independence doesn’t run through the Gulf of Mexico. It runs right here through the prairies of Illinois. Here, in the heartland, we have the resources and the will to transform our energy framework. From a moral, national security and economic standpoint, it’s insane that we are living in the 21st century yet we rely on 19th and 20th century technologies to power our homes, fuel our cars and conduct our nation’s business.

    On Friday, Giannoulias came out with a press release criticizing Mark Kirk, who portrays himself as a defender of Lake Michigan, for not speaking up on the oil spill.

     “Congressman Kirk … is most willing to use the Lake as a backdrop for a press conference, but when it matters most, he is silent,” Giannoulias spokesman Matt McGrath said. “Whether his silence has been bought by the campaign contributions of Big Oil and other corporate special interests is a fair question.”

    Is it a fair question? Not really. Kirk called on BP to assume liability for the Gulf of Mexico disaster, and BP is much Bigger Oil than Enbridge Energy, the company operating the pipeline that runs across Michigan. That said, Kirk has positioned himself as a Great Lakes defender, so his silence is curious.

    Regardless, whenever there’s an oil spill, an ink spill will follow.