Oil’s Well That Ends Well?

BP’s new plan to cap well risks worsening oil spill: “A maneuver that includes severing a leaking pipe from the well may increase the flow as much as 20%. Officials also say there is no immediate remedy to plug the well until August… (via latimes.com.)

Let’s review, shall we:

  • BP has a long and ignominious history of negligence, safety violations and oil spills in their American operations.
  • A relatively cheap (half a million) safety device could have prevented the spill. Such devices are used on a number of other platforms and mandated by some governments. Was it too expensive?
  • BP knew there were serious safety problems at the site almost a full year ago – and did nothing.

  • The companies involved initially went round in circles blaming each other. Their conduct was so atrocious they had to back down after being excoriated in the press, and by Congress and the President.
  • BP eventually acknowledged responsibility and said they would take care of it. They then clarified this responsibility by saying it extended only to the clean-up and reasonable claims for damages. So far, they have made no indication that they intend to honor any claims for damages above the $75 million limit set by federal law. Republican Congressmen with ties to the oil industry have blocked attempts to amend the limit on damages in Congress.
  • The BP CEO said the spill was “relatively tiny” compared with the “very big ocean.” It has now turned up on the Florida coast and entered the Gulf Loop which is carrying it into the Atlantic. It is damaging wetlands and breeding grounds used by a wide range of species, including migratory birds, which will extend its impact from Antarctica to the Arctic. Scientists are saying the oil spill may continue to affect the region for decades or even the rest of the 21st century.
  • After six weeks, every attempt BP has made to stop the oil spill has failed. These attempts have included such rocket science-like approaches as putting a concrete dome on top of the leak and plugging it with junk.
  • A review of BP’s oil spill response plan found it to be “studded with patently inaccurate and inapplicable information.” (We didn’t need a review to tell us their plan wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on – all you had to do was look at the Gulf of Mexico, or the beaches of Louisiana and Florida, or read about the golf balls, pantyhose and human hair.)
  • When staffers from the Minerals Management Service were not getting whacked out on crystal meth and watching porn at work, they were off enjoying meals and entertainment at the expense of the oil companies they were supposed to be overseeing. Understandably, this left them too busy to handle those pesky oversight responsibilities, so they often had the oil drillers fill out the paperwork for them.
  • BP withheld access to a video feed showing the oil spill from scientists and reporters, while insisting over and over in public on an estimate of the rate of the spill that was vastly lower than the estimates of scientists and other industry officials. It turns out the rate of the spill was much, much higher.
  • They deployed a highly toxic chemical to “disperse” the oil from the spill. Scientists and environmentalists argue this chemical will compound the environmental damage of the spill while doing little to actually “clean” it up, other then keep it from washing up too visibly on the shore. The chemical BP used is so toxic that it is banned in other countries and the EPA eventually stepped in and forced them to stop using it.
  • BP hired locals to deploy this toxic chemical but reportedly did not provide them with any safety equipment. The LA Times recently reported that clean-up workers had “become ill after working long hours near waters fouled with oil and dispersant” (here).
  • BP has vast resources – including profits of $14 billion in 2009 – but they seem to be trying to do this thing on the cheap. So far, they’ve only spent $940 million on their efforts to stop the spill and clean up, but that’s less than the profit they made in the same period. In fact, BP’s profits have soared recently: “net profit soared 137 per cent to 6.08 billion US dollars in the three months to March compared with the same period in 2009.”
  • If BP is “absolutely responsible,” as their CEO acknowledges, why aren’t they doing everything in the power to stop the spill and clean up the oil? The truth is, the longer they go without cleaning up the oil that has already spilled, the less they will have to do. The oil will still be there, still be damaging the environment and people’s lives and livelihoods, but it will be widely spread and out of sight. BP will never – never – clean up all the oil. They won’t even try.

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