40 Days in the Gulf of Mexico

Forty days and forty nights is a period of time rich in religious imagery. It is also, sadly, the measure to-date of the ecological disaster occurring off the coast of Louisiana. Today, I hope the prayers of all Americans are focused on the efforts deep in the Gulf of Mexico to stop the flow of oil from the broken undersea oil rig that blew up almost 40 days ago.

The disaster in the Gulf raises many issues. It turns out that big oil, which has recorded the largest profits in the history of the human race in recent years, failed to devise much in the way of tested and proven safety measures in the event of a catastrophic explosion. An investigation will determine the degree to which shortcuts were undertaken around safety measures, or whether the safety measures were simply insufficient, and the degree to which any of this was the result of conscious decision-making by executives looking to run risks to increase profits.

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To be sure, all business ventures run risks, but it is one thing to run a risk with your investors’ money and another to run a risk with a delicate ecosystem that supports the livelihood of others. No one gave British Petroleum the right to ruin the Gulf of Mexico. Unless and until we devise safety measures that really do eliminate the risk of another disaster like the current one, all off-shore drilling should be forbidden. By "we," I mean the government. Entrusting the capping of the well to the company that caused the problem in the first place has been exceedingly frustrating and I was frankly shocked that the government had not already devised the equivalent of a fire brigade to deal with such problems.

Of course, BP did not just run risks. Evidently, BP and the other oil companies also ran the equivalent of a bordello for the government officials charged with oversight of their activities. The administration’s proposal to separate the leasing function from the oversight function is the first step towards rooting out the corruption in the Minerals Management Service not the last. Criminal prosecutions should be pursued as well.

When the final bill for the efforts to cap the well, and for the clean-up of the damage, comes due, it will be important to ask ourselves: How could that money have been better spent? How many wind turbines could have been built? How many improvements to mass transit? Our voracious appetite for energy needs to focus on renewable sources, not on ever deeper off-shore oil wells, or rigs in the more remote, and therefore pristine, areas of the Arctic. The catastrophe in the Gulf was an accident, to be sure, but it was an accident waiting to happen. It cannot be allowed to happen again.

Michael Sean Winters

 

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7 years 12 months ago
"To be sure, all business ventures run risks, but it is one thing to run a risk with your investors’ money and another to run a risk with a delicate ecosystem that supports the livelihood of others. No one gave British Petroleum the right to ruin the Gulf of Mexico. Unless and until we devise safety measures that really do eliminate the risk of another disaster like the current one, all off-shore drilling should be forbidden. By "we," I mean the government."
 
Stupidity on stilts.  Talk to the people of the coast; if you ban offshore drilling, you will essentially kill many more jobs and the livelihoods of literally thousands of people in this part of the country.  You talk about risks and the role of the government.  Do you think the government has the wherewithal to explore these areas of the Gulf? Do you realize that the REASON they are drilling so far out is that radical environmental demands for the "pristine" wildlife excludes the MUCH safer drilling closer to the shore?  And who besides "Big Oil", with its astronomical profits can afford to carry risks such as these, as well as pay the bright engineers who are working their butts off to devise ways safer ways to drill as well to cap this emission, not to mention to invest in the technology needed to do any of this?
 
And spare me your sanctimonious talk of renewable energy sources until you get your heros the great Kennedy clan to cease their opposition to the wind farm off Cape Cod.  Oh, P.S., wind turbines kill more birds each day than the oil industry.  Please spare us.
7 years 12 months ago
Will we get a sensible debate?  I doubt it.  If some one or group were to lay out all the alternatives, their costs, long term implications, possible problems would anyone look at it?  In order to get at some long term solutions we must go through some intermediate undesirable steps.  So as obnoxious as ''Drill Baby Drill'' is to some people, no one has proposed any sensible interim alternative.
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 12 months ago
Landry obtuse Republican pseudo -science  bumper sticker canard:  Windmills kill more birds than oil
Reply:
High rates of death are associated with the Altomont Wind farm in California.  This is an early technology.  The vanes rotate at a much higher speed than modern wind driven generators and are harder to avoid by birds.
Also, the birds are mainly raptors.  Raptors lock in on their prey and become unaware of everything else.
Solution:  Use modern wind generator technology, place the windmills in areas that minimize impact on birds.
Also, place this whole thing in context.  Oil propels cars and cars hit a lot more birds than windmills.  More birds get killed slamming into picture windows.  Any birds killed by windmills can be offset by putting plastic grilles over enough picture windows.  I'll volunteer my picture window.
If I hear about the ^&%$&%^& Kennedy's one more time, I'm going to scream.  I don't give a flying fnarkbuckle about the Kennedy's or the Democratic party, the slightly less stupid party.  Just stop screwing up the planet.  We're only tenants, you know.  You're supposed to leave it in as good a condition as you got it.
 

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