The Quintessential Summary of the Most Important and Bizarre Aspects of the BP Oil Spill, the Response and Who Is Responsible…
See also the blog post, “New Oil Spills Threaten Fresh Water.”
A neighbor of mine installs solar power systems, lives completely off the grid and drives only restaurant oil powered vehicles. He has a sign on the side of his work truck that says, “Vegetable Oil Powered Vehicle. NO WAR REQUIRED.” He was a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam war, which if you dig a bit you will find was also a resource war like those of the 21st Century. Recently this neighbor had black T-shirts printed that have a picture of an oil drilling rig in flames sinking beneath ocean waves with a slogan across the top, “Happy Earth Day 2010.” His dark sense of irony is not humor.
Over the last 10 years, the battle has heated up over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Oil drilling promoters claim it would ease our pain from high gasoline prices. Fact is that the total amount of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is enough to power America’s gas guzzling habit for only a few weeks. We could “develop” far more extra oil than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could provide, merely by cutting down on driving and increasing car pools. Carl Donohue of Skolai Images wrote a quality blog post about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and recent hearings held on its wilderness status. His previous well-written post was called, “A Tragedy In The Gulf of Mexico.” The controversy of oil drilling has been in the news for a long time.
‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ Has Been The Call For Too Long
On the front page of Section E of the Sunday November 6, 2005 Denver Post, the headline read, “The Big Rush To Drill.” The article covered most of the page and jumped to 4E. It discussed the future of natural gas and oil drilling in the Colorado Rockies. An area east of Parachute, Colorado called the Roan Plateau had 70 gas and oil drilling sites on it. The Roan Plateau next to Interstate 70 and the Colorado River, is rich in both energy resources and wildlife habitat. The article said nothing of what would happen to the water supplies of most of the West’s major cities if oil somehow leaked into the Colorado River.
The Earth Island Journal Spring 2010 issue had “To Drill Or Not To Drill,” splashed across the cover. Members of the Earth Island Institute will remember that cover as a timely one for years to come.
The Natural Resource Defense Council issued a press release on January 26, 2010 titled, “Oil and Polar Bears Don’t Mix. Stop Shell Now.” It said Shell gave the green light to exploratory drilling off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It pointed out that though the NRDC won a major court victory defeating Shell’s oil drilling plan two years ago, the oil giant is back gunning for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge again. “The shores of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are Alaska’s main birthing ground and denning area for polar bears…. The oil industry has no proven method for cleaning up oil spills in icy water.” The press release further explained that polar bears that swim in oil slick waters or step in oil washed up on shore and try to lick off the toxic oil would die. Whales would also suffocate or be poisoned and “hundreds of thousands of birds would be killed… and seal populations would be severely impacted by the spilled oil.”
A thick black soup in our ocean waters, covering our beaches, saturating our fragile wetlands, and destroying aquatic life and industries, is not the only legacy of oil drilling and spilling. Robert Redford in 2009 warned us in an article for the Natural Resource Defense Council, “We Can’t Drill Our Way Out of This Mess.” In November 2008 just after Barack Obama was elected, Robert Redford also wrote a piece in the Huffington Post in which he said, “Part of the change Americans just voted for in overwhelming numbers was to move away from the failed energy philosophy of ‘drill, baby, drill’ to a more farsighted strategy.”
Even after the spilled oil began to wash ashore on the Gulf Coast and President Barack Obama had put a freeze on additional oil drilling permits, there were still 17 offshore oil drilling projects that were given the go-ahead without any hesitation. Isn’t it time to say enough? To find permanent alternatives? Currently it is difficult for elected representatives of the American people to make any more than small changes in any policy because corporations now legally have the same rights as citizens. This further escalates the manipulation of the political process that has been increasing for years. Is this government by the people, for the people or a free system? Our political process is like a giant Super Bowl ad, produced by the companies with the deepest pockets. What will happen in 10-15 years when fossil fuels are much more scarce? Will we keep burning fossil fuels until we can hardly breathe and have to walk in sludge everywhere? We cannot allow corporate greed and an obsession with growth to dictate our future. Growth enriches the few and leaves most of us worse off.
Who Is Responsible for the BP Oil Spill?
It’s time we snap out of our denial. Who is responsible for the BP Oil Spill? Every single one of us who drives a car, truck or bus that is powered by petroleum. I think I am doing my part. I recycle. I drive very little, less than 8,000 miles a year, even with all my traveling. I eat local, organic food. I minimize my footprint. However, I realize none of this is enough as long as I am contributing to the need for offshore oil drilling or any kind of oil drilling. Now that I have been jarred out of my complacence, I plan to buy an all-electric car as soon as possible. Hello, they have been available for some time. And, don’t believe the propaganda about batteries not being good enough yet. I highly recommend the documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” It is an eye-opener.
For weeks now I have been inundated with BP Oil Spill press releases from the environmental organizations to which I subscribe. I have been listening every day on NPR for blow-by-blow updates on the unfolding tragedy. If you want to make yourself sick, do an internet search on the BP Oil Spill and read the articles and comments. I feel I may have something to say about this maritime Chernobyl, but frankly I have not been sure what to add to the maelstrom, other than the idea that every one of us who uses petroleum is part of the problem and partly responsible. Here’s a timeline of the bizarre developments in this Century’s largest environmental catastrophe:
Wacky Timeline Of An Oil Drilling Maritime Chernobyl
April 20, 2010: Environmental Defense Fund issued a press release outlining how damaged ocean ecosystems are and how only 25 percent of U.S. Fisheries will be able to continue. The majority of all fishing communities are already on the brink of collapse. Catch shares, a method of regulating fishing and stabilizing the 50 fish stocks that are threatened has been working and could be expanded with introduction to Congress. Read More >>
April 20, 2010: two days before Earth Day, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform located 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast suffered a catastrophic explosion that caused the oil drilling platform to sink. Nearly a mile below the Gulf of Mexico water’s surface an oil gusher started with an oil well blowout. Eleven oil drilling rig workers are missing and considered dead, while 17 others were injured. In Depth Summary >>
April 21, 2010: National Public Radio later said that President Barack Obama held an emergency White House meeting about the BP Oil Spill disaster.
April 22, 2010: Earth Day: Celebrations worldwide mark the 40th Anniversary of the day that commemorates environmental awareness. Much of this year’s focus is on the development of energy alternatives to petroleum and coal.
CNN Breaking Oil Spill News Story Titled: “Exploded Oil Rig Sinks! (DRILL! BABY! DRILL! HAPPY EARTH DAY!)”
April 23: The New York Times and other major media first reported the BP Oil Spill catastrophe three days after it occurred. Treehugger blog in its BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet said the oil spill was reported on April 20 but does not identify who reported it. I can not find any reports before April 23 in the online versions of the major papers. If anyone finds it sooner, let me know which media.
April 30: The Nature Conservancy reported that the first wave of oil came ashore around noon, approximately 45 miles south of New Orleans on the Mississippi River Delta. The seas were running six to eight feet high and an abnormally high tide made it impossible for responders to employ the booms that would normally help to contain the oil slick.
An Environmental Defense Fund press release quoted an e-mail from Paul Harrison, Senior Director for Rivers and Deltas, leader of EDF’s Coastal Louisiana restoration campaign for the last four years writing from the Gulf Coast, “News accounts can hardly do justice to the epic human and environmental tragedy that is unfolding…. It is especially sad that this catastrophe threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming ocean fisheries to sustainability…. It appears that the oil slick will most directly devastate the salt marshes and the species that rely on them along the coast—including hundreds of migratory bird species that are nesting and breeding as we speak. This area also produces 50 percent of the nation’s wild shrimp crop, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of its oysters. We are doing everything possible to coordinate with our colleagues at National Audubon, NWF, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Gulf Restoration Network, and others—as well as coastal community contacts—to monitor the extent of the damage and provide whatever support we can. For those interested in doing what you can to help go to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Website, where you can sign up to volunteer.
May 2: Greenpeace issued it’s new “Spill, Baby, Spill” bumper sticker to raise awareness and funding for oil spill cleanup support and to fight new oil drilling.
May 3: Sarah Palin, former Vice Presidential candidate and the Alaskan who added the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” to the language said that even though the BP Oil Spill is potentially the worst ever, it is no cause for giving up off-shore drilling.
May 5: The Sierra Club’s new Executive Director Michael Brune reported on his visit to the Gulf Coast. He described oyster boats and crab nets sitting idle and out of work and the size of the spill reaching up to 76 miles from its source. “You can’t see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region. Now BP is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability…This disaster is a wakeup call. We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, immediately. We need to eliminate subsidies and giveaways to companies like BP, which had more than $5.5 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2010 alone. We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get us off of oil by promoting clean energy solutions that already exist, we just need the political will to implement them.”
May 7: Matter of Trust collected hair clippings from thousands of salons, barber shops, even pet groomers across the country, along with pantyhose and stockings — all to be used to help mop up the oil threatened wildlife and livelihoods in the oil’s path. Read More >>
May 8: The Sierra Club, fishing industry, shrimpers, and local leaders rally in Lafayette Square, New Orleans, Louisiana and call for BP disaster response and clean energy solutions. Read More >>
May 11: The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee held hearings on the environmental and economic impacts of the BP offshore oil drilling disaster. Witnesses from BP America and Transocean Ltd. testified, along with fishing and tourism industry representatives and environmental scientists. Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced reforms to the Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling operations. Read More >>
May 12: The White House unveiled a legislative package to respond to the BP Oil Spill Disaster. The Sierra Club called for an oil drilling moratorium and a clean energy policy. Read More >>
May 13: The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act was introduced by Senators Robert Menendez, Bill Nelson and Frank Lautenberg. It would raise the liability caps for oil companies from $75 million to $10 billion to help ensure that they pay the full costs of economic and environmental disasters caused by their negligence. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) blocked the act by objecting to a voice vote on the measure. Read More and see the video >>
May 17: Rush Limbaugh blamed the Sierra Club for the BP Gulf Oil Spill. He asked his listeners, “When do we ask the Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak?” and blamed “the greeniacs” for driving oil drilling offshore. Sierra Club supporters responded with outrage and donations to the Sierra Club. The response has been enough for the Sierra Club to launch a new fund-raising campaign in Rush Limbaugh’s name. The goal is to make Rush Limbaugh the Sierra Club’s top fund raiser.
The League of Conservation Voters sent out a press release called, “Dirty Politics Spilling Into The Gulf.” The press release said, “In 2009 alone, oil companies spent $154 million to lobby to perpetuate the oil addiction that led to the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.”
May 20: The Nature Conservancy issued a press release announcing a video made just before the oil came ashore. The video gave insight into the role marshes have in protecting valuable wetlands in the region. The press release also directs readers to the Nature Conservancy’s blog that will feature regular Oil Spill updates from an ecological standpoint.
May 24: National Public Radio reported that independent scientists estimated the amount of oil spilling daily could be as much as 10-20 times BP’s estimates of 5,000 barrels.
May 25: The Los Angeles Times reported that Sarah Palin accused President Barack Obama of a slow response to the BP Oil Spill because he had campaign support from oil companies. She questioned whether “there’s any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded that the oil companies do not consider Obama an ally, “We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge more for gasoline.” Gibbs said, “My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what’s going on in and around oil drilling in this country.” The oil and gas industry donated $2.4 million to Sarah Palin’s running mate, John McCain, in the 2008 election, and $900,000 to Barack Obama, said the Center for Responsive Politics.
The U. S. Inspector General’s investigation of the Minerals Management Service that was overseeing offshore oil drilling said that MMS staff members “accepted tickets to sporting events, lunches and other gifts from oil and gas companies and used government computers to view pornography…. An inspector for the Minerals Management Service admitted using crystal methamphetamine…at work. The report cites a variety of violations of federal regulations and ethics rules at the agency’s Louisiana office.” Read More >>
The Wall Street Journal reported, “BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster.” While the well was in progress it threw up many challenges to BP, “swallowing expensive drilling fluid and burping out dangerous gas. Those woes put the Gulf of Mexico project over budget and behind schedule by April 20… BP made choices over the course of the project that rendered this well more vulnerable to the blowout…. BP for instance, cut short a procedure involving drilling fluid that is designed to detect gas in the well and remove it before it becomes a problem, according to documents belonging to BP and to the drilling rig’s owner and operator, Transocean Ltd. BP also skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe—another buffer against gas—despite what BP now says were signs of problems with the cement job and despite a warning from cement contractor Halliburton Co. Once gas was rising, the design and procedures BP had chosen for the well likely gave this perilous gas an easier path up and out, say well-control experts. There was little keeping the gas from rushing up to the surface after workers, pushing to finish the job, removed a critical safeguard, the heavy drilling fluid known as “mud.” BP has admitted a possible “fundamental mistake” in concluding that it was safe to proceed with mud removal, according to a memo from two Congressmen released Tuesday night.
May 28: President Barack Obama’s 30-day moratorium on new oil drilling will expire. Arctic drilling is set to proceed. Read More >>
BP Accountability, By the Numbers
[From a Sierra Club press release. Courtesy of Progressive Media.]
$450 MILLION…The estimated total BP has spent so far to clean up its catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
$93 MILLION…BP’s daily profit during the first quarter of this year.
5…The approximate number of days of BP’s profits that would cover its total cleanup costs thus far.
11 percent…The percentage of Americans who hold a positive view of BP, according to a new poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal.
2 percent…The size of the current leak relative to what BP promised federal regulators it could handle in its drilling permit application.
260…The number of failure modes the supposedly “fail-safe” blowout preventer used on BP’s leaking Mississippi Canyon 252 well head.
6…The number of dead dolphins that have washed up along the Gulf Coast.
87…The number of dead sea turtles that have washed up along the Gulf coast.
6,414…The number of claims filed against BP so far, mostly from fishermen and others for lost wages.
400,000 pounds…The amount of hair collected and being sent to the Gulf to be used to soak up oil. In response to the spontaneous, nationwide outpouring of hair, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration issued a fact sheet stating: “Recent reports of a need for hair are exaggerated and not helpful to the response effort.” Meanwhile BP may still attempt a widely-ridiculed “junk shot” using golf balls, old rope, and shredded tires to slow or stop the leaking oil.