Ten Things You Need (But Don’t Want) To Know About the BP Oil Spill

Published on Global Research.ca, by Daniela Perdomo, May 27, 2010.

1. Oil rig owner has made $270 million off the oil leak:

Transocean Ltd., the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP, has been flying under the radar in the mainstream blame game. The world’s largest offshore drilling contractor, the company is conveniently headquartered in corporate-friendly Switzerland, and it’s no stranger to oil disasters. In 1979, an oil well it was drilling in the very same Gulf of Mexico ignited, sending the drill platform into the sea and causing one of the largest oil spills by the time it was capped… nine months later. 

This experience undoubtedly influenced Transocean’s decision to insure theDeepwater Horizon rig for about twice what it was worth. In a conference call to analysts earlier this month, Transocean reported making a $270 million profit from insurance payouts after the disaster. It’s not hard to bet on failure when you know it’s somewhat assured.

2. BP has a terrible safety record:

BP has a long record of oil-related disasters in the United States. In 2005, BP’s Texas City refineryexploded, killing 15 workers and injuring another 170. The next year, one of its Alaska pipelines leaked 200,000 gallons of crude oil. According to Public Citizen, BP has paid $550 million in fines. BP seems to particularly enjoy violating the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and has paid the two largest fines in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s history. (Is it any surprise that BP played a central, though greatly under-reported, role in the failure to contain the Exxon-Valdez spill years earlier?)

With Deepwater Horizon, BP didn’t break its dismal trend. In addition to choosing a cheaper — and less safe — casing to outfit the well that eventually burst, the company chose not to equip Deepwater Horizon with an acoustic trigger, a last-resort option that could have shut down the well even if it was damaged badly, and which is required in most developed countries that allow offshore drilling. In fact, BP employs these devices in its rigs located near England, but because the United States recommends rather than requires them, BP had no incentive to buy one — even though they only cost $500,000.

SeizeBP.org estimates that BP makes $500,000 in under eight minutes.

3. Oil spills are just a cost of doing business for BP: … //

9. Environmental damage could even include a climatological catastrophe

It’s hard to know where to start discussing the environmental damage caused byDeepwater Horizon. Each day will give us a clearer picture of the short-term ecological destruction, but environmental experts believe the damage to the Gulf of Mexico will be long-term.

In the short-term, environmentalists are up in arms about the dispersants being used to clean up the oil slick in the Gulf. Apparently, the types BP is using aren’t all that effective in dispersing oil, and are pretty high in toxicity to marine fauna such as fish and shrimp. The fear is that what BP may be using to clean up the mess could, in the long-term, make it worse.

On the longer-term side of things, there are signs that this largest oil drilling catastrophe could also become the worst natural gas and climate disaster. The explosion has released tremendous amounts of methane from deep in the ocean, and research shows that methane, when mixed with air, is the most powerful (read: terrible) greenhouse gas — 26 times worse than carbon-dioxide.

Our warming planet just got a lot hotter.

10. No one knows what to do and it will happen again

The very worst part about the Deepwater Horizon calamity is that nobody knows what to do. We don’t know how bad it really is because we can’t measure what’s going on. We don’t know how to stop it — and once we do, we won’t know how to clean it up.

BP is at the helm of the recovery process, but given its corporate track record, its efforts will only go so far — it has a board of directors and shareholders to answer to, after all. The U.S. government, the only other entity that could take over is currently content to let BP hack away at the problem. Why? Because it probably has no idea what to do either.

Here’s the reality of the matter — for as long as offshore drilling is legal, oil spills will happen. Coastlines will be decimated, oceans destroyed, economies ruined, lives lost. Oil companies have little to no incentive to prevent such disasters from happening, and they use their money to buy government regulators’ integrity.

Deepwater Horizon is not an anomaly – it’s the norm. (full text).

(Daniela Perdomo is a staff writer and editor at AlterNet. Follow Daniela on Twitter. Write her at danielaalternet [at] gmail [dot] com).

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