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'The Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder on the Gulf Oil Disaster: 'Let's learn from this one'

Zap2it, Saturday, July 17, 2010, 10:00pm (PDT)

I've been speaking with "Vampire Diaries" star and passionate activist Ian Somerhalder all summer about the tragic Gulf oil disaster, so it was particularly appropriate that Zap2it was on location in Atlanta with "The Vampire Diaries" cast and crew when news broke that BP's initial cap test appeared successful.Together, while Somerhalder was on a short break from filming, we read the Breaking News headline that no oil was leaking into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20."I feel relieved," he said. "I've felt physically sick about this for months now, literally, so even just a small amount of relief is a powerful feeling."He's only cautiously hopeful, though, as he explains that there's still a serious risk that the build-up of pressure under the oil cap will render it useless and cause another gush of oil into the ocean. Though initial tests have been successful, we won't know whether the cap is a solution for quite a while.Somerhalder is so dedicated to his personal B.P. boycott that when he ran out of gas on his way to the filming location that morning, he "cruised on fumes," passing several B.P. stations, until he finally found a Chevron.He notes that the cap may be holding at the moment, but this development raises a host of new questions."All right, it's capped for now. There's no oil coming out. What do we do?" he asks. "Well, first we have to make sure B.P. makes good not only on the promises they've made, but on the responsibility that they now have. And I hope the U.S. government doesn't bow down like they did when the oil was leaking. I hope the government makes B.P. compensate."He goes on to ask, "How do we rebuild these communities? How do we rebuild these economies and these ecosystems that are now destroyed? I don't know. Honestly, I don't know, and it's a baffling question. The wildlife and the people who depend on that ocean have to be a priority. The government can't turn their head away from that."It's important to remember that despite the apparent success of B.P.'s cap, an entire ecosystem has already been devastated. The cap's temporary fix doesn't mean that the Gulf disaster shouldn't remain in our cultural consciousness, and it also shouldn't lull people into a false sense of security. Until changes are made in the way that we consume energy, we risk another catastrophe."The moratorium has been lifted. Congress says that - what is it? - that there's no evidence that offshore drilling is harmful to the environment," Somerhalder says, laughing bitterly. "That is the most bizarre thing. For a country as sophisticated as we'd like to think that we are, the fact that we can pass that kind of legislation? Again, it's not a political agenda of mine. It's just a question: How dumb can we be?"Video note: Experts estimate that between 1.5 and 4 billion gallons of oil enter the world's oceans each year.Stay tuned to Zap2it for much more from my set visit with Ian Somerhalder and the rest of "The Vampire Diaries" cast.Follow Zap2it and @cadlymack on

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