Paradise Lost

Enough Inhofe: Senators need to start thinking less about the welfare of the petroleum industry.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil spill.  What are you doing to celebrate? On Tuesday, U.S. Sen James Inhofe, the infamous climate change denier, decided to give BP a $9.925 billion dollar gift by opposing the effort to raise the oil spill liability cap to $10 billion. That sure beats a Starbucks gift card. 

Inhofe’s bogus argument (similar to Alaska Sen. Murkowski’s excuse last week) is that increased liability cap would penalize small, mom-and-pop oil companies. (Are there any?)

Wake up Congress!! There shouldn’t be a liability cap at all!!  If the oil spill causes damages, then the companies responsible must be forced to pay the entire cost of cleanup. This seems fair and equitable. Our representatives need to start thinking about natural resources and economic damages rather than the welfare of the petroleum industry.

At a time when Congress can’t even move forward on a liability cap, the blowout volume is at least 6.6 million gallons and counting, and some estimates are five times higher or more.

The area of the Gulf closed to fishing grew to nearly 50,000 square miles by Tuesday. So much for Sportsman’s Paradise.

The only way Louisiana’s sportfishing and commercial fishing workers can make a buck is to work for BP in a futile approach to reduce the ecological and economic harm caused by the blowout.

Yes, the fishermen get paid, but a paycheck today certainly isn’t worth the potential health risks of constant exposure to hazardous waste without fully protective gear.

My friend Matt Petersen, president of Global Green, an environmental group doing sustainability and green jobs work in the New Orleans area, has visited the Gulf twice since the spill. He has talked to a number of fisherman that got sick from just a day or two of cleanup. Those guys quit the cleanup efforts because they decided their health is more important than a paycheck.

BP should be paying the tourism and fishing industry for their lost livelihood, not for cleaning up its toxic mess.

Meanwhile, BP is still no closer to solving the problem.  Seemingly, every day there’s a new solution. Hey, let’s try using robots to jam everything imaginable into the leak, from heavy liquids to golf balls From inverted funnels to top hats to adding a straw, it’s like watching the modern-day version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from “Fantasia”. 

The overwhelming magnitude of the spill, surely wreaking havoc in the deeper waters of the Gulf, is starting to cause damages along the shore, with oily sludge hitting Louisiana’s marshes this week.

As the visible impacts of the spill grow, BP’s heavy-handed tactics to limit media access to polluted areas will soon exceed its PR capacity.

America’s eyes are glued to news footage on environmental impacts the same way that traffic slows down for a particularly heinous accident.  We know we shouldn’t look, but somehow we’re drawn back to the drama unfolding on the small screen.

There definitely will be some dramatic images over the next few weeks, but the major ecological harm is occurring far from probing eyes.

Among the many troubling questions: 

  • Will the increased organic material from the spill lead to an enormous hypoxic or dead zone in the gulf? 
  • How will fish population reproductive success fare during and after the blowout?
  • What are the toxicological impacts of the dispersant combined with the oil?
  • What will be the impacts to sensitive sea turtle populations that are already threatened and endangered? 
  • What will be the economic impacts to the tourism and fishing industry that relies on shrimp, snapper and other species for their livelihoods?

These questions won’t be accurately answered for years.

Finally, it looks a lot tougher to get a local gas station through environmental review these days than a deep-water offshore oil drilling platform.

As the depressing news reminds us each day, regulation is lax despite the fact that these rigs can destroy a multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industry and emit enormous quantities of toxic air pollution nonstop.

Many want to blame the federal Mineral Management Service, noting its inaction during the partying, slacker times of the W administration. But environmental review and protection has always been an enormous problem in the agency. Even the progressive Clinton administration couldn’t  push through reforms.

The one obvious solution is to create environmental independence by separating out the environmental review requirements from the MMS and putting it in the EPA, where it has always belonged.

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3 Responses

  1. […] a lot more to write about all this…  I suggest creek freak readers also read Mark Gold’s recent excellent recent piece Paradise Lost at Spouting Off.) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Drill Baby Drill!‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ […]

  2. […] 21, 2010 by Joe Linton Ok, it’s Bike to Work Week… the catastrophic Earth Day Oil spill continues unabated… the city of L.A. continues to be one of the most car-centric places on […]

  3. While watching the latest news about the BP Oil spill, a frightening thought came to mind: what if we can’t stop the oil? I mean, what happens if after all the measures to cap the pipe fail, (i.e., “Top Hat”, “Small Hat” and “Top Kill”). What then? An accident this problematic is new territory for BP. The oil pipeline is nearly a mile down on the ocean floor, accessible only by robots. Add on top of that the extreme pressure at which the oil is flowing out of the pipeline and there you have it: the perfect storm.

    Moreover, scientists also claim that they’ve found an enormous plume of oil floating just under the surface of the ocean measuring approximately 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. (I’m no math genius, but I bet one of you reading this could figure out just how many barrels of oil that is…)

    There are new estimates that the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil a day: that’s a far cry from BP’s estimated 5,000 barrels a day. If BP’s estimates are correct, the total amount of oil now in the Gulf would be approximately 150,000 barrels (or 6,300,000 gallons). That’s barely enough to fill 286 swimming pools: sixteen feet, by thirty-two feet, by eight and a half feet deep. That wouldn’t cover an area the size of New York City, let alone an area the size of Delaware. Obviously, the spill is much larger than we are being led to believe. If the leak can’t be stopped, in a year’s time, we’ll have roughly 18,250,000 barrels of oil (or 766,500,000 gallons) in our oceans, killing our marine and animal wildlife. Such a calamity would be environmentally and economically disastrous. Pray that BP and our government work fast to end this catastrophe.

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