The flagrant display of incompetence and greed shown by British Petroleum (BP) in the Gulf of Mexico right now is nothing short of sickening. It’s no wonder people hate oil companies these days. Of course they’re not all like BP, but BP isn’t helping any of them.
For over a month now, conservative estimates are that a minimum of 5,000 barrels a day of oil are gushing into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Louisiana. Recent revised estimates are now pushing that number to 12- to 19,000 barrels a day. Some estimates are as high as 70,000 barrels per day.
Either way, we’re seeing what may be one of the worst known marine disasters in history rolling out in the bountiful waters of the U.S. coast.
The U.S. government also shares a great deal of the blame for the situation and the inaction in cleaning it up and mitigating the damage. Obama is also being heavily criticized now for the government’s inaction, and rightly so.
Offshore drilling regulations
Once the immediate problem of the gushing oil is solved, there are a few major issues to be resolved. The lawsuits will go on for years, and BP is going to be in serious trouble.
Perhaps we will see sensible offshore drilling regulations in the U.S. and even more importantly, regulatory enforcement. If ever we’ve had a graphic illustration of the dangers of cozying up to the companies you’re regulating this would certainly make the case.
At the risk of opening up the discussion to a wider issue, I’m not in favour of government being cheerleaders for business. Government should be operating as a referee between citizens and business. Government should set a level playing field and enforce it to the benefit of all. It’s not good to tilt the playing field in favour of either group.
I also believe in a free flow of information, something that government and business are usually loathe to accommodate. I am not a fan of secrecy. Evil and stupidity tend to thrive behind veils of secrecy.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about this whole Gulf disaster is the slow pace of protection and cleanup. From what I’ve gathered, the government seems to be bowing to BP to control the cleanup and protect sensitive environmental areas.
Had more protective measure been taken concurrent to BP’s attempt to stop the oil gushing into the Gulf, we might not be seeing the environmental damage on the Louisiana coast we’re seeing now. The fishing industry in the Gulf could potentially be threatened for generations.
This is another area where the Obama administration has been tremendously weak. The appearance is that the talk is tough, but there is no action to back it up. The administration claims it has its foot on BP’s neck, but the reality is that the public is going to have its foot on Obama’s neck if he doesn’t do something about this slowly expanding disaster.
BP keeping secrets
For obvious reasons BP has been trying to limit access to the beaches and affected waters. It doesn’t want the public to know the scale of the disaster. It doesn’t want the public to know how dangerous dispersants like Corexit actually are.
I believe the dispersants are actually formulated to keep the oil below the surface where the true extent and danger of the cloud of oil will remain secret. One has to wonder whether BP and the U.S. government have brought in oceanographers, water experts and other scientists to determine the true scale of the problem hidden below the surface of the Gulf waters.
With the top-kill attempts, BP is pumping drilling mud into the failed blowout preventer. They haven’t released how many barrels per hour they’re pumping into it, but if they were to be able entirely replace the flow of oil and gas from the well with mud, we would know exactly how many barrels per day were coming out of that well.
I am positive BP knows this number, but there’s no way in hell they’ll release it. Drilling mud isn’t cheap, and I am sure they meter it when they pump it. They know
The scary part is that they’re probably pumping as much mud into the well as they can but they’re still not completely displacing the flow of oil and gas. This means that however many thousand barrels per hour BP is pumping in are only part of what is escaping from the blowout preventer.
Public relations? What’s PR?
Information about this man-made disaster will eventually flow. I’m sure BP has consulted Oliver North on how to handle the back office though. Once that information is public, I think there will be even more outrage than there is now.
I think this is the key reason BP is so secretive. If the public knew the real extent of the problem, BP executives would be in serious danger.
On the other hand, BP seems not to have learned that in modern PR putting all your cards on the table as soon as possible is inevitably the best strategy. From a legal perspective, at least in the U.S., the crime never seems to be punished as severely as lying about it.
I am sure BP executives probably have their private jets on idle for when the arrest warrants and extradition orders are issued. I’m guessing they won’t be fleeing to any Caribbean countries though.
Once the flow of oil stops from this out of control well, the lawsuits are going to be out of control too. I think we’ll see BP executives arrested once the truth starts to come out. It may be only for their own protection.
The future of energy & government
I hope that efforts to stop the flow are successful soon. It sounds like relief wells could be months away, if they’re even successful.
To me, this whole issue illustrates the importance of moving away from petroleum as a primary source of energy in our society. As oil companies are forced into deeper and more dangerous waters and we recover oil from dirtier sources such as oilsands, one has to wonder why we’re not pouring more resources into alternative energy and distributed power generation.
We have the technology now and the means to put solar and wind power on homes and to create wind farms. This can happen far quicker than wide distribution of fuel cells or the creation of nuclear power plants. Perhaps if we subsidized the production and installation of wind and solar instead of oil and gas, we’d reduce our need for fossil fuels more quickly.
Mass production of electric cars really isn’t that far away either. The reality is that in colder climates, I suspect we’ll still be relying on fossil fuels to a greater degree, especially in a vast country like Canada.
There seems to be little political will to move more quickly on alternative energy, not unlike the lack of political will to deal with climate change.
Regulation and enforcement obviously need to be strengthened and the cozy culture of government and business needs to end. I’m not confident this is going to change soon though. Our politicians are too reliant on the perks, benefits, political contributions, bribes and post-politics jobs that flow from the businesses they loosely regulate.
Citizens are angry and need to let politicians know just how angry they are. If ever our planet has needed grass roots action, it’s now. The corruption in political circles across the planet these days absolutely sickens me and it seems to get worse by the day. Politicians had better understand that they govern with the consent of the citizens they represent. Around the world I think we’re going to see that consent increasingly withdrawn.