Ten reasons why should we be concerned about what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico:

May 9, 2010

10. Among the injured in the blowout on the Deep Horizon drill platform were a number of British Petroleum executives on hand to celebrate seven years of accident-free operation on the rig.

9. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, damaged 1300 miles of shoreline and exacted a terrible toll on the ecosystem. All economic indicators, though, listed this environmental disaster as a boon for Alaska. The field of economics does not have a way to put a value on degradation to the environment.

8. CBS News reports that 15 years after the event, of the 11,000 workers employed on the Exxon Valdez cleanup, 6000 were dead. 21 years later many Alaskans are still waiting for Exxon to pay up. British Petroleum has promised to pay for the costs of the Gulf of Mexico cleanup, but Dick Cheney got a law onto the books capping liability for oil companies at $75 million per incident. President Obama promises to raise that limit, but mid-term elections are coming with expensive campaigns to fund.

7. Dick Cheney’s deregulation of the oil industry during the Bush administration allowed oil companies to cut corners on safety. According to lawyer Mike Papantono, if the Deep Horizon oil rig had been set up off the coast of Denmark it would have been equipped with an acoustic switch for the blowout protector, a fail-safe mechanism which costs an additional half-million dollars. The year they opened this well, BP profits shot up an additional 3.9 billion dollars. They could have afforded the safety equipment, but corporations won’t do what legislators don’t require, and Big Oil has a history of spending money on politicians rather than on environmental safeguards.

6. Last week Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor spoke to reporters after flying over the oil spill:

“This isn’t Katrina. It’s not Armageddon,” Taylor said. “A lot of people are scared and I don’t think they should be.” He described the spill as a light, rainbow sheen with patches that look like chocolate milk. He did not see any traces along the Louisiana shore, near the Chandeleur Islands in Louisiana or the barrier islands in Mississippi. He said the closest he saw oil was 20 miles from the Louisiana marsh and that it was further than that away from the Chandeleur Islands and even further from the barrier islands. “It’s breaking up naturally; that’s a good thing. The fact that it’s a long way from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, that’s a great thing, because it gives it time to break up naturally,” he said. (sunherald.com/2010/05/01)

Later in the week the estimate of the oil flow rate increased five-fold, the slick reached shore, and much less was heard from Congressman Taylor.

5. Notwithstanding Rep. Taylor’s optimism, BP seems overwhelmed by the magnitude of their mess. So does the Obama administration. Yet oil companies continue to drill, and industry analysts complain that the modest drop in the price of BP stock is out of proportion to the company’s potential loss.

4. Shell has recently paid the United States Government $2 billion for licenses to join BP in drilling in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean.

3. Paul Watson commented in a recent Toronto Star article:  Stephen Harper insists his government won’t let Canada suffer an offshore oil well blowout like the one threatening the Southern U.S. coast. “As we’ve said before, the National Energy Board is clear: there is no drilling unless the environment is protected, unless workers are protected,” the prime minister told the House of Commons Monday. “That is the bottom line and this government will not tolerate the kind of situation we see in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Harper sounded as confident as Gene Taylor there.

2. The Exxon Valdez spill was a large, but finite amount of oil in a confined area on a rocky coastline. The Louisiana coastline is not sharply defined, with thousands of miles of bayous, rivers and swamps which are the nursery for much of the aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the richest seafood producing areas in the world. When they get the gusher stopped, cleanup of this area will make Alaska’s two-year effort washing rocks and birds look like a cakewalk.

1. And they have no way of knowing where the end will be.  (Tom Foreman, CNN)

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