The Oil Catch: the BP Gulf mess

A Brown Pelican is seen on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Have you forgotten about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Did you take notice?

I know, it’s been six weeks since it started and without anyone being voted off the oil rig or the most eligible BP oil executive bachelor or bachelorette not selecting their new partner, why bother? Just tune in for the finale.

Here’s the catch – the finale for this oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico will be far from pretty and wrapped up in a nice little bow, to consume, compartmentalized around the Monday morning water cooler and then forgotten.

Six weeks ago an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico triggered this environmental tragedy. The rig had been drilling beneath about 5,000 feet (1,525 metres) of water and 13,000 feet (4 km) under the seabed.

The Deepwater Horizon rig on fire before sinking. Eleven workers died in the accident on the rig southeast of Venice, Louisiana. (U.S. COAST GUARD)

Over 5,000 barrels of oil a day was being pumped out into the water according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), though BP initially estimated only around 1,000..what’s a few 1,000 barrels among friends, BP probably surmised. Here is a timeline of the oil spill courtesy of Reuters.

The threat to the Gulf’s environment and fishery industry is immense. Heart wrenching photos and accounts of wildlife killed by this tragedy have steadily flowed into the public realm. This particular photo essay was striking and depressing. Birds, fish, reptiles, fragile coastlines and beach… this oil spill has choked and coated many indiscriminately.Follow NOAA’s efforts and reporting on the crisis, an excellent resource.

Heavily oiled pelicans wait to be cleaned at The Fort Jackson Wildlife Care Center in Buras, LA. (IBRRC)

Canadians need to pay attention because as Arctic nations line up at the Northwest Passage trough, the possibility of an environmental calamity in our northern reaches, courtesy of oil, becomes a reality.

With climate change shrinking the ice sheet in the north, more nations eye the Northwest Passage, also know as the “Arctic Grail”, as a gold mine for resource transport, commercial shipping and natural resource exploration. Our confidence and reliance on technology, just like in the Gulf of Mexico, will raise expectations, meaning no seabed will be off-limits and no waters will be unnavigable.

The Northwest Passage, potential for commercial success and environmental concern.

“Canadians should be alarmed..and any shipping involves the risk of accidents, particularly in remote and icy waters,” said Michael Byers, UBC international law expert, in a speech to the Vancouver Institute reported in The Tyee.  “An oil spill would cause catastrophic damage to fragile Arctic ecosystems; a cruise ship in distress would require an expensive and possibly dangerous rescue mission. Any new fishery will be highly susceptible to over-exploitation, particularly because of the difficult-to-police location…”

Latest estimates are that the leaking BP oil tap in the Gulf will finally be under control by late August. It is hard to expect this will be the last of such disasters on our planet. The more we push technology and frontiers and the more greed we feed, whether corporate or our own consumer consumption, the blame will never be too hard to determine…the hard part, which always remains, is never allowing it to happen again.

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One thought on “The Oil Catch: the BP Gulf mess

  1. Grant

    The disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico is the result of corporate greed and a reckless disregard for safety regulations by British Petroleum. While the company is now spending untold millions on a public relations ad campaign in a futile attempt to convince the world it has a conscience, past history disproves that notion.

    In the last five years, BP has admitted to breaking U.S. environmental and safety laws and committing outright fraud. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over the past 3 years, “BP ran up 760 egregious, wilful safety violations, while Sunoco and Conoco-Phillips each had eight, Citgo had two, and Exxon had one comparable citation.” In two separate disasters prior to the Gulf oil rig explosion that killed 11 people, 30 BP workers lost their lives, and more than 200 others were seriously injured. Needless to say, the lousy $373 million in fines paid by BP to avoid prosecution meant nothing to such a deep-pocketed company, and the Gulf oil spill was just another affordable disaster waiting to happen. BP can again open its big fat wallet and throw money at the problem, but that in no way can ever make up for the decades of severe damage done to region – the people, their livelihoods, and its wildlife and habitat.

    Although BP’s inept CEO, Tony Hayward, stated on May 30th he was sorry “for the massive disruption” the spill had caused to Gulf Coast residents’ lives, in the very next breath he indignantly added, “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. I’d like my life back.” Ten days earlier, during a question-and-answer period following a public meeting on the spill in Metairie, Louisiana, BP spokesman Randy Prescott said, “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.” If such unthinking and callous remarks are indicative of BP’s integrity, the company is morally bankrupt. Infuriating too is the fact that, after its many failed oil “containment” attempts, the company’s latest effort seems to be all about saving whatever oil it can instead of trying to seal the well closed – not in 2 or 3 months, but NOW – so that ongoing cleanup efforts can in any way become effective.

    Along with the emotional and economic human toll this disaster is taking, there’s of course the horrific suffering and death of the region’s wildlife. (That picture, Vince, of the oil soaked pelicans is nothing short of heartbreaking.) God may have wanted Man to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,” but there should’ve been an added caveat: “Always be most respectful of the earth and poison it not through your own stupidity, carelessness, and greed.”

    If ANY one positive thing can come from this mind numbing disaster, let’s hope it’ll be the increased diligence of governments everywhere, including Canada’s, to ensure that oil drilling operations on land and in the water will be more strictly regulated and monitored in order to minimize the chances of catastrophes such as this happening again. Since fines are totally ineffective, any oil company that violates government safety and environmental regulations should have its operations shut down immediately, and not be allowed to restart them until the problems are remedied. That just might save a few lives, years of heartache, and at least spare the planet a bit less Man-made destruction.

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