Big Oil’s Big Mess in the Gulf of Mexico: “America’s Chernobyl”

It looks like it is going to be a catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.  What’s unfolding right now is not an oil “spill”, it’s an unchecked gush of oil – oil pouring out at a rate we now know is at least 5 times, and may be 10 times, what BP originally announced.  Time.com put it this way:

It may be time to stop referring to the Deepwater Horizon rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico as an oil spill. A spill sounds like something temporary, a glass of milk overturned, which empties and then can be cleaned up. But what is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from the sensitive shorelines of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, isn’t a spill. It’s an unchecked gush of crude oil from beneath the bottom of the ocean into the water — and no one can say for sure when it will finally stop.

From the Louie Miller, Director of  Mississippi branch of the Sierra Club:

… BP, the world’s third largest energy company formerly known as British Petroleum, has mishandled the crisis ever since an oil rig the company was managing exploded April 20 off the Louisiana Coast and sank two days later.

“I don’t think I’m overstating the case by saying this is America’s Chernobyl at this point in time,” Miller said at a news conference today in Gulfport.

“This is going to destroy Mississippi and the Gulf Coast as we know it – from property values … to our barrier islands. It’s a big deal, you all. And unfortunately, we do not see the response that we have asked for.”

Oil Spill Facts:

  • The oil spill exceeds the worst-case scenario predicted by BP when it filed its exploration plan with the government. The spill is estimated at roughly 210,000 gallons a day. In BP’s exploration plan, the company outlined a worst-case scenario of 162,000 gallons a day.
  • The disaster may have been prevented by a special shut-off switch, but BP did not purchase the switch and after drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, decided the device wasn’t needed. [Wall St. Journal 4/30/2010]
  • At its current rate, the spill could surpass by next week the size of the 1969 Santa Barbara spill that helped lead to the far-reaching moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts
  • Some estimates show it could take 3-4 months to contain the spill. By that time, the spill could exceed the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
  • 59 Fatalities, More Than 1,300 Injuries, 853 Fires.  There have been nearly 60 casualties and more than 1,300 injuries on the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico alone since 2001.  “Working in the oil industry is more dangerous than working in coal mines.”   [CBS, 4/22/2010]

BP Facts:

  • $5.6 Billion In Profits.  During the first quarter of 2010, “BP said its profit rose to $6.08 billion from $2.56 billion during the same period of 2009. Excluding the impact of energy prices on unsold inventories as well as $49 million of one-time items, and BP would have earned $5.65 billion, topping consensus estimates by about $900 million.”  Profits increased 135% from 2009.  [Bloomberg, 4/27/2010]
  • 41% Raise For BP’s CEO.  “Chief Executive Tony Hayward’s total remuneration and share awards rose 41% in 2009 on performance bonuses from improved operations which made the company one of the best performing oil majors in the fourth quarter, despite lower full-year profits due to the fall in the oil price.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/5/2010]
  • $16 Million In Lobbying.  BP spent $16 million lobbying in 2009. [Opensecrets]
  • $3 Billion In The World’s Dirtiest Oil.  Meanwhile the company invested $3 billion in 2007 in the dirtiest source of oil on earth: Canadian tar sands. “The result will be the development of a major new Canadian oil field and the modernization and expansion of the Toledo refinery to allow far greater use of Canadian heavy oil and to increase clean fuels production by as much as 600,000 gallons a day.”  [Climate Progress, 12/18/2007]
  • $900 Million In Alternative Energy Budget Cuts.  In 2009, BP cut its alternative energy budget to between $500 million and $1 billion from $1.4 billion in 2008.  “BP has shut down its alternative energy headquarters in London, accepted the resignation of its clean energy boss and imposed budget cuts in moves likely to be seen by environmental critics as further signs of the oil group moving “back to petroleum.” [The Guardian, 6/28/2009]

Bloomberg.com reports that Oil spill’s “fisheries failure” may signal the end of coastal towns:

“This is going to be the biggest economic disaster to hit Louisiana,” he said. “It could be 10 times the economic damage of Hurricane Katrina.

Click here to read the full story.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG-b4n4yTGc]

Click here to see pictures of the spill at Time.com

Click here to send a message to President Obama to stop offshore drilling now, and for volunteer sign-up information.

Click here to go to the “Ban Offshore Drilling” petition on 350.org, and/or join the Facebook group 1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling.

0 thoughts on “Big Oil’s Big Mess in the Gulf of Mexico: “America’s Chernobyl”

  1. As the oil spill in the Gulf grows larger and more deadly, decimating all that it touches, BP continues to turn down assistance from Americans who just want to help clean up the mess. (…I hear they even turned down Director James Cameron and actor Kevin Costner…)

    First let’s get one thing perfectly straight: If you want to go and help clean up the oil spill, don’t let some corporate Big-Whigs “handle” you into believing that you’d be more of a liability, than an asset. I applaud you for recognizing that we all depend on our oceans for our very survival. It is this water that sustains every living thing on our planet, and it is also this water that we must protect in order to save ourselves from extinction.

    BP has downplayed the problem in the Gulf from the beginning as a means of corporate damage control. I don’t think they’ve yet recognized the severity of the problem. As I’ve written in past blog posts; the pipe needs to be capped and the relief well needs to be drilled. It’s not an exact science by any means, and if BP doesn’t get it right the first time, they’ll have to do it over, and over, and over again, until they do. How many months (or years) will that take? How much damage will have been done to our environment by then? We’ve already seen what 51 days of oil can do to the Gulf of Mexico… What would happen if the oil was left, unabated, for several months, or years? It’s a frightening example of corporate greed gone awry and it’s criminal, pure and simple.

    Corporations should never be allowed the opportunity to risk the lives of everyone on the planet just to make a profit for a few shareholders. (What good is money, after all, if you don’t have air to breathe, water to drink, or food to eat without fear of contamination?)

    BREAKING NEWS: I’ve just heard that those enormous plumes floating just under the surface of the water have been certified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) as crude oil.

    (Are we just casual witnesses to our own demise? I wonder…)

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