Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's just a little oil....

Today’s the big day.

The media will surely fall all over themselves doing the One Year Anniversary thing for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010.

It took three months – three months – and almost five million barrels of oil gushing into the water before the experts could figure out how to stop the geyser. (I know I’m not alone in recalling how inept former BP CEO Tony Hayward, tired of the inconvenience the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States was causing him personally, whined publicly, “I’d like my life back,” to which thousands upon thousands of devastated Gulf Coast residents replied loudly and in unison, “So do we, asshole!”)

I remember hearing reporters talking about this-many-feet of containment boom being deployed and that-many-feet being added and trying not to laugh and cry at the same time because the containment booms didn’t work and meant nothing.

Chew on this for a second: 4.9 million barrels of oil equals 206,000,000 gallons.

One year later, consequences include extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats; devastated fishing and tourism industries; unemployment, financial hardship and uncertainty; and the corpses of baby dolphins, porpoises, starfish, sea turtles and other marine life washing up on local beaches.

One might assume that the full force and attention of the federal government are making things better…but one would be wrong. Congress – which is so good at adding insult to injury no matter the topic – has done nothing to strengthen protections for rig workers and the environment. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Congress has failed to pass a single law to make drilling safer than it was a year ago, and the oil industry remains unbowed and relentless in its drive to gain more access to the offshore environment.”

On top of that, oil companies are still relying on the same blowout preventers, containment boom and dispersants that failed last year.

And almost a year after eleven-year-old Malia Obama asked her father, “Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?,” the Obama Administration is apparently leaving other holes uncovered, neglecting to ensure that the newly-formed Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement has the resources it needs.

Bureau head Michael Bromwich is on record stating that his agency “still lacks the resources, personnel, training, technology, enforcement tools, regulations and legislation it needs to do its job properly.” He also said U.S. offshore drilling accident rates are much higher than Australia, Canada, Norway, and the United Kingdom because those nations put stronger rules in place after major accidents.

Bromwich is the guy who appeared so defensive, prickly and insolent while being interviewed recently about new drilling permits on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show that Maddow concluded the segment by saying, “I have never been more freaked out about this story and those permits than I am now after talking to him. Wow.”

Want to know what freaks me out? Taxpayers are still on the hook for cleanup costs if we have another huge spill because Congress hasn't changed the law that caps oil companies' liabilities at $75 million. (According to Willis Group Holdings, a London-based global insurance broker, total Deepwater Horizon-related losses could amount to $30 billion.) Yet the three mammoth corporations associated with Deepwater Horizon – BP, Halliburton and Transocean – have all seen their profits soar following this little incident.

The NRDC reports that the U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on legislation that would accelerate the pace of drilling, sidestep environmental safeguards, and mandate drilling in new areas along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and in the Arctic Ocean. Which way do you think the narrow-minded, ethically-challenged, status quo-lovin’, pro-Big Oil Republicans are going to vote?

Happy anniversary!

(Photo credit: Reuters)

Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Huffington Post.


  1. Capitalism when it works and Socialism when problems crop up. That's the way of Big Business.

    I guess I'm all for more oil drilling IF it's 100% funded by private money. No tax breaks, no coverage for cleanup, zero government money. Same with nuclear power. Private money is responsible from day one until 100,000 years from now then the waste materials are totally spent.

  2. Excellent commentary, Patrick :)