It’s time to stop blaming BP – alone. At least four other oil companies hired the same firm to write their plans for handling spills in the Gulf of Mexico. They ended up with nearly identical plans, complete with thoughtful concern about impacts on walruses. The CEO of ExxonMobil called it “unfortunate” and “embarrassing” that the plan included walruses, which have not been present in the Gulf region for millions of years.
On the other hand, according to U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, the oil industry’s standard plan for Gulf spills never mentions hurricanes or tropical storms, which do appear in the region on an annual basis. This makes perfect sense under only one interpretation: the oil companies were certain that accidents never happen. If there are no oil spills, your spill response plan can talk about unicorns, and no one will be the wiser.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster has the familiar ingredients of deregulation, deception, and destruction that characterize the relations between governments and multinational corporations. It was a man-made disaster, like Chernobyl. And like the global financial crisis, it all started with the explosion of a bubble, this time of methane gas.
The Wages of Deregulation
In 2008 the Bush-Cheney duo lifted the executive order banning offshore drilling, and the House of Representatives agreed to let a 26-year-old moratorium on offshore drilling expire. Deregulation was moving full speed ahead.
“An upside-down faucet, just open and running out.” That’s how an oil-spill expert at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute describes the massive release of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico that began April 20th at British Petroleum’s Deep Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. [See live video feed of the spill here.]
The disaster has opened an information faucet, too: every day, more truth about the real costs of fossil fuels is emptying into public view. Desperate efforts to control both spills are underway.
After its 450-ton blowout preventer failed, BP tried burning the oil slick, creating the macabre spectacle of the ocean on fire.