7 Things You Need to Know About the BP Oil Disaster
by Chris Hibbard
Originally written for http://www.lethbridgeliving.com
7 Things You Need to Know About the BP Oil Disaster
Once I decided to try to write something about the ongoing calamity spreading outward from the Gulf of Mexico, I figured a little research might be necessary; but what a task it was to find interesting and reliable news sources! It would seem that the big media stations, particularly CNN and FOX, are not telling North Americans some of the most important facts about this disaster; choosing instead to promote corporate concerns, engage in Obama-bashing and finding hundreds of new ways of saying the same thing repeatedly.
I am not an environmentalist. I am not an overtly religious man. I am not a business man, a lobbyist, a geologist or petroleum expert. I am essentially just like most Canadians. But I do not trust big corporations, big media, or big government – all three of which are deeply involved in this globe-affecting crisis. Here are seven things you all should know about the BP Oil disaster that is still worsening as you read this.
1. Be informed. Know what has happened.
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and injuring many more. This explosion led to complete rig failure, and a subsequent ‘gusher’ stream has been pushing up to 60,000 barrels of crude oil into the ocean every day since, with no sign of slowing down. The drilling wellhead is 1.5 kilometres beneath the surface and 80 kilometres offshore. It is nearly impossible to see anything and the pressure is enormous.
Two different strategies have been employed to try to fix the problem. Both have failed. A third strategy has been employed and is being watched closely. If it does not work, there is no fourth strategy waiting in the wings. Officials have no idea how much oil there is in the supply they have struck, and have no idea of when it could potentially stop leaking, if not controlled. Meanwhile, the oil spreads and the oil pools. The blobs of oil you see on TV are essentially just one tiny percent of a much deadlier threat.
There is currently a lake at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico that is over 100 miles wide and up to 500 feet deep of black oil that just sits there, gently moving with the ocean currents. It is only the lightest parts of the oil that rise to the surface and hit the shores.
The spill has seriously damaged the economies and employment rates of all states that utilize the gulf’s waters for industry and tourism.
The American government has named the BP Oil Company as the responsible party, and is essentially leaving BP in charge of all costs and clean-up controls. This is a disaster of incredible proportions, sometimes referred to as the Macondo blowout, after the ‘code’ name for the original oil location as a prospect.
2. There will be no easy solution.
We cannot stick a cork in the earth. We cannot cover it with a lid and collect the oil. We cannot prevent the oil from spreading with tides and weather patterns. We cannot burn it off, suck it up or cleanse it with chemical agents. This oil spill also involves harmful gasses like methane and benzene, toxic to life. Other wells in the area are affected. All biological organisms that use the ocean for life in the region are affected; including rivers, streams, shores – all connected, and being polluted.
Even if some magic solution appears, it will take decades to fix what has already occurred in just several months. Many experts are saying that the best possible cleanup scenario means recovering 20 per cent of all oil spilled. Only 8 per cent of the oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster near Alaska was ever recovered.
3. We have been betrayed.
We are constantly told that ‘they’ know what is best for us – that ‘they’ are in control; are in charge; and are more capable of responsible decision-making than we ‘average’ citizens could ever be. There is no use in pointing fingers – for we are all involved. If we do not ask, they will not tell. The proverbial poop has hit the fan – and even if we dodge the flying parts, the stink is here to stay.
Massive corporations with hundreds of billions of dollars were behind this, it is true. Deregulations were permitted that allowed a special safety device called an acoustic switch to be deemed unnecessary. Certain individuals made certain mistakes, and those mistakes led to an underwater explosion ripping a hole in the earth that is now spewing millions of gallons of oil. Under President G. W. Bush’s watch, cozy with the oil industry, the regulatory body responsible for requiring proper deep rig blowout preventors was gutted; thus contributing to the disaster through negligence. Now President Obama gets to spend a lot of time cleaning up the mess left behind by the last administration.
Just as complicit were government offices that did not exercise due diligence; did not follow up on previous orders and did not stop to think about cause and effect. The major media outlets seem to be either too scared to tell the whole truth about the immensity of this situation; or there are other financial concerns at work that are deterring journalists from seeking out the truth and spreading it far and wide.
We could argue for hours about who’s to blame, but no argument will change the fact that our earth is essentially bleeding out – and we don’t know even know how much blood she has. Thanks to modern technology, we can even watch the earth’s guts gush out in real-time, 24 hours a day. We have put a violent wound in our ‘living’ planet. Don’t believe me? Follow this link:
4. We have seriously damaged our planet.
We all deserve to know just how serious this situation really is. This is probably the biggest environmental disaster that our continent has ever seen. It is definitely the biggest oil spill that the world has ever seen. Though the true environmental impact of an unstoppable well situation like this one is beyond calculation, a pristine and relatively pure ocean environment has been tainted and damaged for future generations to be sure.
We cannot make new oxygen-providing coral reefs, for they take thousands of years to form. No corporation or government body can remove the oil that lies between every grain of white sand over thousands of miles of white beach. No individual or group can simply order fish to be replaced, shrimp to adapt to life with oil, or entire species to stay alive. It just doesn’t work that way. As it is, when the wind blows from the ocean towards the land, people and animals are getting sick. Dead bodies of small creatures are becoming more and more common, and the impact on larger predators is expected to follow. Millions of gallons of oil will remain in the ocean, ravaging the underwater ecosystem, and 100 miles of Louisiana coastline will never be the same.
The oil platform explosion took place almost within the current loop where the Gulf Stream originates. This has huge ecological and climatological consequences. The explosion released tremendous amounts of methane from deep in the ocean. Methane contributes to greenhouse gasses, and as we have all heard many times – greenhouse gasses heat the planet. Meanwhile, thick red streaks of oil can be seen from the air, looking ominously like blood. This is appropriate, for the earth is hemorrhaging badly.
This is an event on an unprecedented scale – a ‘life as we know it’ scale. One quote I discovered read:
“It is incredibly hard to put into words the absolute horror that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now. The millions of gallons of oil that have gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and BP’s efforts to fight the massive leak are turning the Gulf into a lifeless toxic stew of oil and chemicals. The damage caused to wildlife in the Gulf by this spill will be incalculable. Entire species are at risk of being wiped out. Scientists are telling us that the primary dispersant being used by BP ruptures red blood cells and causes fish to bleed. This is by far the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history, and there is no end in sight. It is a worse environmental and economic disaster than all of the hurricanes of the past ten years combined. The great wetlands and beaches along the Gulf of Mexico will never be the same in our lifetimes. The dominant seafood industry in the Gulf is being completely destroyed. The thousands of jobs and businesses being wiped out by this disaster could potentially throw the entire Gulf coast region into a depression. The damage already caused by this oil spill is beyond measure and yet the government tells us that up to 19,000 barrels (798,000 gallons) of oil a day continue to flow into the Gulf of Mexico.” – Michael Snyder, for http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/
5. Do we learn from our mistakes?
BP Oil was born in 1909 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and was originally partly owned by the British government. The company is (was) worth $250 billion; is the third largest oil company in the world and is the largest corporation in the United Kingdom. The BP Oil Company is a repeat offender that has been fined dozens of times for not following proper safety procedures and protocols. They have been indicted for covering up accidents, cutting corners and costs, censoring public news media items, banning journalistic coverage, and threatening their employees. They have been implicated in bribery of public officials, grand theft, and in attempting to cause unjust wars using private armies and mercenaries. They have been accused of being behind murders, tortures, environmental destruction and money laundering on every continent on Earth. They have also been involved in previous disasters, including the Exxon Valdez tanker crash in 1989. In our present disaster, 9 times more oil has been spilled than in the Valdez case.
In 2005, many were killed and hundreds injured after a tower filled with gasoline exploded at a BP refinery in Texas. The oil giant had considered making buildings at the refinery blast-resistant to protect its workers, but determined it was cheaper to pay off the families of those dead or injured. In 2006, BP was responsible for an Alaska pipeline rupture that spilled more than 250,000 gallons of crude oil. In that case, investigation revealed that BP ignored many internal warnings about corrosion and rust issues, and though the Environmental Protection Agency recommended a fine of nearly $700 million dollars, the company settled for a mere $20 million. BP has reportedly paid over $550 million dollars in fines over the last 50 years, including the two largest fines in the history of America’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
While this disaster likely could have been prevented it was not. And now it’s too late. Yet BP is still tasked with cleaning up their own mess, though their previous record implies this is likely not the wisest idea. After the Exxon Valdez incident in ’89, the Exxon Company was quick to assume control over the cleanup process, effectively removing BP from having anything to do with the spill itself. Yet here we have thousands of barrels of fuel are flowing freely through the Gulf of Mexico, and have been for months. People are distressed and dismayed and the immensity of the scenario is almost too huge to comprehend. But really, what can BP do? What can any one company really do?
BP’s Chief Operating Officer, Doug Suttles; has been recorded as saying, “This scares everybody – the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far.”
Yet BP is completely on the hook for both the cleanup and any and all financial remunerations that will arise. That $250 billion of valued stock is going to disappear quickly, and many surmise that BP may have to declare Chapter 11 Bankruptcy within a few years. There is not enough money in the world to clean up the mess that they find themselves in.
The sad part is that BP is not an anomaly. Until the disaster strikes, they are just the current company under a white-hot spotlight. Any corporation that relentlessly pursues profit at the expense of considering safety, human resources and environmental precautions is a danger to us all. Just remember, though the next earthquake, mine explosion or genocide may steal that spotlight away; the oil will still be rushing forth. Meanwhile, BP revealed early Monday that it had spent nearly $4 billion in the aftermath of the oil disaster, including over $200 million in compensation to American victims of the oil spill – families of dead miners and others afflicted by deadly chemicals.
6. Expect the worst.
The vast dimensions of the nightmare are hard to wrap your head around. What many are saying is that the US Government should remove BP from the clean up process, turning the entire operation over to the U.S. Navy, under purview of the EPA. Whether this will happen remains to be seen. BP Oil may collapse and go broke, and the government will have to foot the bill. That means taxes will go up, and other programs and offices will see cuts and layoffs.
Major media attention has already started to slow, with the crisis in the gulf being ‘old news’ now, deemed less important than riots in Toronto or a visit from the Queen. Big oil, big media and big government, all are beginning to turn a blind eye, thereby limiting public awareness and distracting us from the sad truth – the earth is still bleeding and the oceans are still being tainted with toxic sludge, at an even greater rate than in April. In comparison to how huge this story really is, the actual media coverage is minuscule.
The price of many types of seafood, particularly shrimp and crab, is going to skyrocket. With the loss of fishing and marine tourism, the eastern seaboard economy is devastated. It won’t be surprising to see millions of Americans flee their east coast homes and lives, evacuating and moving away from their now-ruined lives by a beautiful blue ocean.
Some statistics say that roughly 50 per cent of America’s oil currently comes from deep water drilling. Were all offshore drilling to come to a stop, the alternative is just as ugly, and much more costly – tar sands. We are all already familiar with the impact that the tar sands has had on Alberta’s natural beauty already, so it’s sad when I find myself viewing it as a safer, better alternative. Because this oil gusher will likely never be stopped, at least not until the entire oil reservoir beneath the sea has been drained dry.
The potential for more deadly elements to appear is huge. With methane gas comes the possibility of explosions. With benzene fumes coming off the ocean breeze, many are going to get sick and die; and with hurricane season approaching, this mess is only going to get worse. I would not be surprised to hear in the next few years about the entire Gulf of Mexico being totally lost, and all waters off the east coast of the United States being uninhabitable. That means from Florida on down to Bermuda and Cuba, from Louisiana all the way up to New York state – all in serious jeopardy.
The most recent attempt at solution involved placing an enormous experimental ‘cap’ on the geyser – preventing the geyser of oil from gushing. Just this week that cap will likely be removed. Capping one area increases the pressure on other weaker points underwater. Since the cap’s installation tiny bubbles of noxious gases have been seen, indicative of steadily increasing pressure and the potential for small rupture further down the line. Small leakages (which believe it or not are natural, and help drilling companies locate oil supplies) have been found miles from the wellhead and are being watched very closely.
We are just three months into it, and it is estimated that the next attempt at truly ‘fixing’ the problem – drilling more relief wells nearby to catch oil while alleviating the pressure on the geyser – will not be operational until at least September. Ships and barges known as skimmers are desperately scooping up oil from the surface of the water, but what is beneath the waves can simply rise up and replace it.
7. We must not lie down.
I don’t mean to spread doom and gloom and engage in fear mongering or irrational pessimism. I was irritated by the American talking heads on CNN and how they were covering the disaster, so I started doing my own research. One of the first things I noticed was just how many websites were apparently shut down; as though they had been censored. This is a ‘watershed’ event that will have long-term impact; but some people out there simply want us all to look the other way. The more I read the more depressed I became, and that depression changed to anger. Now I want you all to realize just how deadly serious this gulf oil disaster is.
If you stay tuned in to your televisions, you won’t realize how close we are to killing ourselves with oil. The media still seems to be downplaying this; using terms like ‘seep’ instead of leak, and ‘successful so far’ rather than temporary solution. In listening to the media, the government spokespeople or BP Oil’s PR department; the public truly isn’t getting all the proper information.
If something like this occurred tomorrow in the Arctic or Pacific oceans, we’d be heading toward mass extinction. Here in Canada, we have these deep sea wells right in our backyard. An oil gusher in the Arctic would destroy us. The wells are in such remote locations with icy conditions that they would never be repairable. Lest we forget that the Arctic Ocean is encased in pure ice for more than half of each year.
The worst part of this whole thing is that we did it to ourselves. We’ve gotten so accustomed to oil being there when we need it that we use its end products in almost every moment of every day. This is our fault for letting corporations make decisions for us. This is our fault for forgetting that this big blue planet we call home is not just a rock – it is alive and coursing with interconnected living beings. Our greed, our laziness, our desire for quick, convenient living has led us here. In a desperate race for profits, power, and prestige, we forgot about one thing: the power and force of nature. Common sense and humanity were pushed aside and this is going to end badly.
The sooner we shrug off our ignorance and preferred ways of living with an ‘out of sight, out of mind mentality’ the better. For the longer we remain in denial, the worse this is going to get. We’ve got to face it. We’re addicted to a substance that is not unlimited. Our greed, our mistakes and our tolerance for corruption is literally destroying our world – not just for us, but for our children and all future generations. How long will it be before we wake up, snap out of it, rise up and demand accountability from our leaders and businessmen?
We must be aware and forearmed with knowledge. If we can’t force our society to change our dependence on oil and petroleum being used in every aspect of our lives; it’s sure to get a lot more expensive in the coming years. Until one day it’s just not there anymore. Does anyone think about what it means when we can’t produce food and energy anymore? That’s called Game Over folks. So I sure hope this catastrophe makes us try a little harder – because our big planet just got a whole lot smaller.