Things seem to go from bad to worse for British Petroleum. While BP was claiming spill amounts as low as 5,000 barrels per day, their internal estimates were as much as 60,000 barrels. BP CEO Tony Hayward went yacht racing last week, and this week he is no longer the face of BP’s Gulf of Mexico reclamation efforts. I say “reclamation” because it has become increasingly apparent BP is only interested in saving as much salable oil as they can. Their efforts at clean-up and containment seem focussed on public relations more than environmental protection and restoration.
Today one of BP’s famous little robot submarines bumped into gas venting equipment at the leaking well head. As a result BP had to remove the cap used to pump some leaking oil to surface ships – and ultimately to refineries so BP can sell it. While the cap is missing oil pours unimpeded from the well.
Meanwhile the oil has reached Florida. There are claims BP is destroying wildlife with its surface oil burn-off efforts – to say nothing of the hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere. There are reports that the oil slick is driving sharks inshore. The surface slick is now large enough to be easily seen from space.
Sixty-six days have passed since the explosions that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. The Obama administration imposed a moratorium on all drilling below a water depth of 500 feet as a safety measure until those rigs are inspected. But a federal judge has revoked that moratorium and allowed new drilling to continue at depths greater than a mile below sea level; at least a half-dozen projects will drill at depths exceeding those of the Deepwater Horizon well. Other, current drilling projects are nearly as deep as the Deepwater Horizon well.
There are currently more than 3,500 active wells and drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Some are new like Deepwater Horizon. Some have been active for decades. There are still wells producing in the Ship Shoal field, the first discovered in 1947. Estimates are 65 billion barrels of oil have been taken from all the producing fields in the Gulf, and about 71 billion barrels remain.
Oil companies like BP consider leaks and spills to be part of the cost of doing business. Perhaps the inability to deal with the Deepwater Horizon disaster is a result of complacency – a “these things will happen” attitude. But oil isn’t the only product taken from the Gulf of Mexico, and oil companies aren’t the only “residents” of Gulf waters. The fishermen, the people on the beach, and of course the wildlife are all there too. One wonders if BP considers them just a part of “the cost of doing business”.