Oil is not well in the state of Louisiana

Its been called black or fools gold, one this for sure is that the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico has all but destroyed the ecosystem and tourism industry of that area, birdlife, marine life as well as the lives of humans has been irreversibly affected by mans greed and unremitting exploitation of the planets resources. Before you ask I do use petrol for my car to get around so I am not saying we should stop pumping crude oil but we do need to ask the question “At what price”

British Petroleum’s enormous oil spill in the gulf of Mexico started when an oil well blew out some 1.6 km’s on the seabed on the 20th of April 2010 resulting in a catastrophic explosion on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 workers with the rig sinking 2 days later. It has been speculated that a “blow out preventer” (a fail safe device) did not automatically cut off the oil flow as intended after the explosion.

Initially and quite unbelievably BP denied that there was in fact a major oil spill, but the US coastguard announced that at least 8000 barrels ( 1 300 000 litres and these are conservative estimates) were leaking into the gulf. It was only 2 days after this announcement that BP sent an underwater vehicle to assess the actual damage.

Initially BP were very optimistic saying that no oil was leaking from either the well head or the broken pipes ( VI comment: “Pull the other one its got bells on it”) and that the initial spill from the explosion was being controlled. This optimism however was to be short lived as the very next day BP announced hat there was in fact oil leaking but put the spill at only 1000 barrels a day (160 000 litres)

Over the days and weeks that followed disagreement over how much oil was in fact seeping into the gulf and causing havoc to marine life escalated with BP wanting to play down the figures but environmental organizations saying that up to 50 000 barrels (7 900 000 litres) were leaking out of the uncapped well. One research scientist put the spill at 100 000 barrels per day (16 000 000 litres) At this stage its important to say that 1 litre of oil can contaminate 1000 000 litre of water.

If this figure was correct to put it in perspective the Exxon Valdez that ran aground off the Alaskan coast in 1989 spilled 250 000 barrels of oil from its cargo. this was the biggest environmental disaster to hit planet earth. 100 000 barrels a day would then equate to an Exxon valdez every 3 days, but according to BP there was no reason to be concerned. “Yeah right”

BP did not want to allow any independent assessments of the leak at the site of the leak on the basis that BP was doing everything possible to ensure that this leak was being sorted. many however did not believe BP and said that the reason for independent assessments not being allowed was based on BP’s proprietary rights over that specific oil field, many commentators saying that private property rights were triumphing over social and environmental rights.

Pressure from environmental as well as other interest groups increased with regards BP’s as well as the American governments stance on the leak and what it was in fact doing to ensure the well was capped. There was also astonishment as to why a CBS reporter had not been allowed access to beaches that were being affected by the oil, she was apparently met by BP contractors as well as the coast guard who threatened her with arrest if she did not leave the area.

When these actions where questioned it was reported that the Coast guard were acting under the authority of BP, this brought in a fresh wave of protests from Americans who wanted to know how is it possible that a foreign corporation can have jurisdiction over public beaches.

BP where requested by various Louisiana agencies to set up a fund (initially 300 million dollars requested) to help the state fix short and long term effects on the local economy that would be seriously affected by the spill. as one can imagine oil, water, fish as well as other wildlife don’t co exist well together. The Louisiana and Mississippi coasts are home to fragile and unique mangrove as well as wetland systems as well as the varied species of birdlife, marine mammals and fish.

as stated earlier BP’s CEO Tony Hayward called the spill “relatively tiny” and even stated on a TV interview a month later that the environmental cost of the spill would be “very, very modest”. Reaction to this statement was swift with Hayward being branded arrogant and ignorant. Hayward is also reported to have said ‘I want my life back” which was seen to be very insensitive by many seeing that 11 men had died in the explosion on the oil rig itself.

Despite BP’s assurances that all was under control on 24th May the US federal government declared a “State of fisheries disaster” for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, initial cost estimates to looses for the local fishing industry could be up to 3 billion dollars (21 billion rand). BP at the same time announced that to date they had spent 1 billion dollars to contain the oil spill (That seems a lot for a relatively tiny spill my Hayward) . The amount is a mere drop in the ocean when you realise that BP pays out 10.5 billion dollars a year in dividends to shareholders (damn and I don’t have shares with BP)

Its been estimated that when the dust has settled this “tiny spill” could cost BP 12 Billion dollars or more (I hope its more). What has hurt BP though is that it has lost 1 third of it stock value (estimated to be 67 Billion dollars) this in only 2 months since the spill happened and is at risk of a hostile takeover.

Many opportunities have been used to cap the well, and none seem to have worked at one stage there was talk that the USA was considering using a nuclear warhead (are they serious) to seal the cap. quite rightly organizations like Greenpeace were up in arms (pardon the pun)

So a question that we need to ask ourselves as citizens of the world is why do we allow our governments to be held ransom by an energy that is not sustainable, not environmentally sound and has the potential to let loose disasters of this magnitude that have ecological, economic as well as social costs.

I for one do not use BP petrol stations anymore and hopefully I am one of many who are making a stand against this arrogant company who think that because they have money they can do what they want to the planet and mess with the future of my children and their children.

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