Yesterday, BP finally admitted what I suspect they knew all along, that the top kill idea was a long shot at best and failed to work. Now, in addition to the .5 – 4 million gallons per day (depending who you listen to), we have around 850,000 gallons of dispersant (including 150,000 gallons released below sea level where we have no data on how it will react) and more than 1.2 million gallons of “heavy drilling mud” and assorted junk, including metal pieces and rubber balls. I use the quotes around “heavy drilling mud” because I can’t find a clear answer as to whether this is oil based drilling mud which contains mercury among other things, or water based drilling mud which contains known eye, skin and lung irritants and have not been tested for ingestion.
There is a 6 mile invisible oil (dissolved hydrocarbons) cloud, found in oxygen-depleted waters, heading for Florida. David Hollander, the University of South Florida oceanographer who discovered the cloud, believes the dispersants may have caused part of the petroleum to extract itself away from the oil and blend into the water with solvents and detergents. He fears this chemical reaction may run up the food chain.
BP has the worst safety and environmental record in the industry. Even before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, in just 2 refineries, BP is responsible for 872 serious safety violation, 97% of all “flagrant” violations in the U.S. refining industry, including 760 “egregious willful” and 69 “willful” violations. Understand that “willful” means they knew what they were doing and did it anyway. Between January ’97 and March ’98, BP was responsible for 104 oil spills. That’s about 7 spills per month for that period. But they didn’t clean up their act and in 2005, a refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, killed 15, injured 180, forced thousands of people to remain in their homes and spawned an investigation into the Texas City and Toledo, Ohio refineries. Most of the violations came because BP never fixed the problems identified as the cause of the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion. BP admitted to breaking environmental and safety laws and committing fraud and paid $373 million in fines to avoid prosecution and was sentenced to 3 years probation. In 2009, OSHA fined BP another $87 million for not correcting 270 of their safety violations. They also found 439 new violations. Unwilling to pay the fine, BP is appealing.
So, THAT’s who our leadership is saying are the only people with the expertise to solve this issue. The argument for keeping BP in charge of both stopping the flow and cleaning the Gulf (as well as paying all damages) is that the government doesn’t have the experts or equipment. I reject the idea that there are no former oil experts working for our government. The revolving door at MMS has been revealed. And I’m wondering at what point we see this as a foreign threat to our soil and economy, our food and fuel? When does this become a military question? I’m guessing never. Too many hands have been shaken, too many dollars have passed between them. No one in charge seems to be thinking clearly. Or quickly.
Yesterday, after the top kill failed, was the first time I heard – Now we have to focus on protecting our coast. NOW? 41 days in, we’re going to start to focus on protecting ourselves from a freight train we’ve seen coming for over a month? Nothing makes sense anymore. The time to think about protecting the coast was before MMS handed a blank inspection form to be penciled in by the oil giant, before they signed a contract that admitted BP had no plan for a deep water disaster, before they finished building a rig that was a technological marvel beyond our ability to control. Containment boom should have already been stockpiled, just in case the mother-lode well had a problem. Perhaps barrier dunes should be required to protect wetlands before drilling can begin. The point I’m making is that, not only was the explosion avoidable, BP was completely unprepared for a foreseeable disaster, one they’d experienced as recently as 2009 off the coast of Australia.
Here are other oil spills and related news that occurred THIS WEEK:
In Alaska, Alyeska, a joint subsidiary of BP, Conoco, Exxon Mobil and Chevron (I’m not even sure what that means, but it sounds like a super-corporation) spilled 210,000 gallons of oil at the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. A power failure during a planned shutdown resulted in oil spilling into a partially filled storage tank which then overflowed into a containment yard. The pump is back online now.
Outside L.A., a tanker truck carrying 8,800 gallons of gas, overturned, exploded, and closed the freeway for 8 hours. Flames shot up more than 100 feet creating a swirling black cloud visible from 30 miles away. Firefighters allowed it to burn itself out. I found very little information about the air pollution but lots of information about how long traffic was affected. We’re so addicted to oil, we can’t even hear how much perspective we’ve lost.
In India, at least 30 people were burned to death and 28 were injured after a bus collided with a diesel oil tanker. Driver negligence was blamed for the accident.
Also, an oil tanker and a bulk carrier crashed between Malaysia and Singapore, spilling around 770,000 gallons of oil. The silver lining? Asia’s busiest shipping lane was not affected. Again with traffic info.
That’s just the spills I could find THIS WEEK.
Additionally this week, Shell is currently fighting allegations that they conspired to pollute the Oloma community of the Niger delta. They are accused of self-sabotaging so as to award the rebuilding contract to favorite contractors in 2006. Meanwhile, 540 million gallons of oil have escaped into their fishing waters.
Earlier this year, we had the 7th largest spill in U.S. history, the Eagle Otome tanker which crashed off the coast of Texas, spilling 462,000 gallons in January. Of course, Our spill in the Gulf laughs at silly numbers like that. We do that on the slowest of days here.
The Gulf is our nation’s 2nd biggest fishery, after Alaska. Approximately 100,000 jobs are dependent on the seafood industry. These workers don’t want food stamps (seen as an insulting offer of help by locals) and they don’t want welfare. They want to work. BP, by and large isn’t hiring them, but those who are getting those jobs are as protected as our Gulf. Every day, workers are told the air quality has been tested, is fine and that they don’t need masks. Every night, workers are taken to get medical treatment for the effects of exposure to the oil and chemicals.
Why does anyone believe anything BP says anymore? Why does President Obama? Why are we still being told to trust the people who “see the bigger picture” and “have all the facts?”
If we cannot be trusted to safely extract and transport oil, then we should scale back production and usage until we’re better prepared. Yeah, I said it – use less gas. Clearly, it is too unwieldy a fuel for us to use without spilling it and we aren’t able to clean it up as fast as we spill it. We need to do what the government seems not to be doing – find alternatives. Carpool. Consolidate your errands. Telecommute. Ride a bike. Walk. Take the bus. Imagine what a difference it could make if we ALL found an alternative to driving just one day a week. Maybe then, we wouldn’t be searching for fuel we don’t even need yet at depths we’re not ready to drill yet.
Hurricane season starts on Tuesday. Our Gulf is warmer than usual already and the black crude is heating it up like a pool cover. Warmer water means bigger storms and more of them. If you aren’t already praying for us, it’s not a bad time to start.