EmbrOILed: the leak and what needs to be done about it

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2010 at 4:31 am

NOBODY loves an oil spill. Especially one that releases over 30 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

So, we’ve all heard about the recent BP oil spill. What with Jon Stewart making fun of it, the fake BP Twitter account and almost every news network jumping on the bandwagon criticizing the company for its mismanagement of the crisis, it has already received more publicity than any other event this last month. But while most of this is recirculated information, I wanted to figure out exactly WHAT went wrong, WHY it happened, the history behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and some innovative solutions of curing this environmental disaster. So here’s a blog outlining the lesser-known aspects of the “worst oil spill in history” (the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill was about 11 million gallons) and what needs to be/is being done about it.

First things first. Exactly what happened? Well, late in the evening on April 20th 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico caught fire. The Deepwater Horizon was an exploratory rig built about 18,000 feet under the ground to get to oil and gas. Scientists suspect that a surge in pressure caused the oil and gas to ignite, leading to the explosion. Almost 126 people were on board, and most of them were rescued by the US Coast Guard or rescue boats. Eleven workers died during this incident, but, broadly speaking, their deaths have been eclipsed by the fact that the rig is still releasing crude oil from underneath the ocean floor into the Gulf, threatening flora, fauna and humans in the region.

Ultimately, we get to the question: Who is to blame? Well, we can’t point fingers to ONE person yet. BP’s taking the rap for it right now, but the rig is owned and operated by a company called Transocean. And the cement work was done by a third company, Halliburton. So we essentially don’t know WHO to blame for this. Scientists and experts, at least for the time being, seem to agree that a flawed pipe or cement casing was the most likely cause of the oil spill itself.

How big of a role did BP really play in this disaster? I feel that even though BP wasn’t the ONLY one, it was THE

Birds-eye view of the oil sheen

MOST IMPORTANT one. A BP worker said that BP was urging Transocean to finish the exploration the rig was conducting by clearing the riser with seawater—the final step. Even workers realized that BP was taking a great risk by going through with this. I think of this as fairly important—as a company, I understand your motives are to make as much profit as possible from the situation. But, in the words of one of my science teachers, Neal Jarvis, “if you can’t handle the consequences, don’t do the actions”. I feel this applies all the more on the corporate level, especially when you’re utilizing public goods such as oceans and natural resources. At the end of the day, BP didn’t have successful safety measures in place to deal with such catastrophes, which highly disappoints me.

To its credit, British Petroleum has taken SOME measures to cure the oil spill. We might not always be satisfied with all of them, but hey, would YOU have done better as the CEO of BP? But, while I realize I’m not competent enough to do a better job managing a disaster of such proportions, I definitely expect corporations to know what they’re doing and to fix their problems if they do make them. BP has not been so good at this. It has consistently been low-balling the spill estimates in order to save money, which is a bad idea. It has consistently over-estimated the probability of any of its recuperation efforts working, which has also misled the public. BP tried all measures: the “top kill”, an alternative pipeline, the “junk shot”, and most recently, the containment dome. But even though the dome seems to be working, BP has not committed to cleaning up the oil, and it needs to demonstrate more commitment to solving the issue. I, for one, am leaning towards the 4/5ths of America that has lost confidence in the company.

Why should we care? Well, immediately speaking, there are a lot of consequences that the spill has brought about that need to be dealt with immediately. I’m not planning on going to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida this summer; since no one else is either, the region is going to lose a LOT of money this year as tourism dips. Since fisheries are major local industries, many fishermen are bound to go out of business, and 19% of the industry is dead already. So the entire region is going to be impacted—financially, ecologically and geographically.

In the long run, the first consequence of the spill is environmental. The recent reports of flora and fauna being

The Louisiana state bird, the brown pelican, is one of the hundreds of species threatened due to the oil spill.

affected by the spill are simply shocking:

  • Six dolphins found dead on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
  • 23 sea turtles found dead along the coast of Mississippi.
  • The spill could have major consequences on the food we eat as well.
  • Local fish such as marlin, cobia and yellowfin tuna are in the middle of their annual spawning season, which means the oil could destroy the eggs as well as the remainder adults of the species themselves.

For further findings, click here.

Cleaning up the spill presents even more of a problem than clogging the leaking pipes itself. But this does not mean we haven’t already begun to cope with the problem. Measures to clean up this spill are being undertaken from all directions. The US Congress is planning to deal with this oil spill legislatively—it has introduced a bill that would raise the $75 million liability under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act to $10 billion so BP can pay for it all on a per-barrel-per-day basis. US Attorney General Eric Holder has also visited local state attorneys to survey damage and undertake a long criminal investigation. BP itself is taking measures off-shore, under the sea and in the community that can be seen on its website. Yet, I would agree that more needs to be done and soon.

Dear BP. Wake up and see the video. Oil plumes DO exist.

So, where do we go from here? Well, according to BP, nowhere. Robert Dudley, BP’s new Head of Disaster Management, said that “The oil is going to flow for a while,” according to CNN. BP is promising no valid efforts to clean up the oil spill till August. As of today, BP has not even owned up to the presence of underwater oil plumes that environmentalists have found about 50 miles from the rig itself. BP cannot pretend anymore. The fact that the Chief Executive of BP is still trying to convince himself there is “no evidence” of the oil being suspended undersea, I think, is simply ridiculous.

But we can’t all blame the corporations and the governments—they all have red tape and protocols to go through before they can act and react to situations. We as a community can also do a LOT of positive things to help out with the oil spill cleanup efforts. Let us NOT divide ourselves before we start to tackle a problem, like many Republicans are doing by blaming this spill on the Obama administration. It just so happens to be extremely counter-productive. As BP itself admits, the company is open to new civilian propositions to solve the crisis. So here are some cool things that people around the world are doing to clear up the oil spill:

So, whether you’re creating a new strain of fungus that can magically eat up oil, or just volunteering with/donating to one of the many organizations cleaning up the oil spill, know that your efforts will NOT go in vain. Thanks for your help, and continue to help make a change!

PS: To watch live footage of the underwater oil spill, click here.
PPS: To find more creative ways of fixing the oil spill, click here.

  1. […] it. However, it’s not a problem that is to be ignored because it will affect US. Read [this] article from YesICare. […]

  2. Scratch out the “I am not so sure about the “Matter Of Trust” efforts…”

  3. Bwhaha! You quoted Jarvis! 😉 I’ll add a link of your article to my blog. Thank you for writing such an informing blog post that underlines the basics and important facts of this oil spill as well as giving BP’s pov as well.

    P.S. I am not so sure about the “Matter Of Trust” efforts…

    “BP and the U.S. Coast Guard say they are not using hair to sop up the oil, and don’t plan to.”

    From 2 days ago:

    So I don’t know… perhaps they’ll consider this option eventually?

  4. Every article gives different stories and amounts, and as this is a wild rushing gusher, spewing phenomenal amounts of chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico, I expect there is no way to accurately measure the amount.

    Earlier on Friday, BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles said the containment cap “should work” by capturing at least 90% of the gushing oil.

    Hummm 90% is what amount… is that the down played amount being touted by BP or the much higher estimate of the US government?

    Whatever the REAL facts, it remains that this LMRP is only a band aid solution, temporary, until the hoped for two relief wells are complete and functioning.

  5. EmbrOILed: the leak and what needs to be done about it…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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