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Deepwater Pockets - Make 'em Pay

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Message Diane V. McLoughlin
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May 21st, 2010: The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, which killed eleven oil rig workers, occurred on April 20th, 2010. We are told that the oil pipe magically held for a further two days before it began gushing hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico from a mile or more below the ocean's surface.

We are into the 31st day of this environmental disaster. And I have to say that I am not impressed by the response from anyone, be it from the President of the United States, British Petroleum or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Â

The President reportedly has a cooperative, collaborative working style. OK, this is appropriate some of the time. But you cannot always safely assume that you are not surrounded by sociopathic liars and thieves. Not when it comes to money. Sometimes, people do not respond with appropriate haste to a crisis because they do not have the capacity to care.Â

Yesterday, the EPA sent BP a letter informing them that they must begin to use less toxic chemical oil dispersant than they had been using. Yet we've known for weeks that the dispersant BP was using was environmentally suspect. It feels like we the people have to laboriously drag the government along by its ankles. This is no way to run a railroad.Â

In fact, it seems like the government is sleepwalking in almost every sphere of responsibility instead of leaping like pumas on the problems of the day. Like all decaying empires stubbornly fixed on ever-outward expansion of territorial control, rot sets in from neglect. Ain't nobody home but us chickens. How scary is that?

Cluck. We want answers. As reported by CNN last night, BP has got one-hundred thousand gallons of less-toxic oil dispersant chemicals sitting unused on a warehouse lot down there. I repeat this information here reluctantly, because I have no idea whether or not it is even environmentally-sound to use these dispersants in the first place. Logically, you cannot gather what you disperse.Â

There are now massive underwater three-dimensional mountains of oil that are miles wide and thousands of feet deep in the Gulf - maybe we made these by mistake using these chemical dispersants to try to get the oil to dilute with the sea water.Â

Light-weight material that could be spread on the oil to make it easier to either gather or burn seems like a not-great but better environmental solution. Saw a garage inventor on T.V. a few days ago saying he had invented just such a thing. Couldn't figure out how to share this information. Same experience for InnoCentive, an on-line people-powered problem-solving outfit. Surprise. It is impossible to get a living breathing human being from the government on the phone; would they have any real authority even if you could?

As for BP. I'm not mad at American BP worker bees. But management? That's a different story. The accusations of criminal negligence grow louder by the day. BP arrogantly and stupidly low-balled their estimation of the extent of the problem - along with their efforts to fix it.

To be completely fair, BP is not the only company that was involved with the operation. Other companies included Halliburton and Transocean. It will be interesting to learn what percentages of liability courts may dish out. But that is far down the road from here.Â

BP either lied or didn't care enough to wonder how much oil was gushing out of the broken pipe. BP tried to keep us all from being able to view video of the actual spill to judge for ourselves. When BP finally released a grand total of thirty seconds of tape, independent scientists estimated the amount of oil fouling the Gulf to be up to fourteen times the amount estimated by BP. BP responded by brushing it off as unimportant to the effort to shut it off.

BP wasted precious days, and continues to waste precious seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks coming up with ways to try to block this pipe, because they were irresponsible. BP did not have already constructed in storage the devices their scientists subsequently proposed to try. This is a completely unacceptable fail. This is all about the money and nothing at all about the oh-so-obvious, huge environmental risks.

From the earliest days I, and others, have asked whether or not explosives might be able to collapse the ocean floor on top of the pipe and shut this gusher down. Apparently the Soviet Union in the past has done this a few times using nuclear weapons. Environmentally scary stuff. But my question is with regard to conventional explosives. In either event, there are risks and benefits to weigh. The furthest projection to shutting this oil gusher off is now mid-August - another three months if all else fails.[1] One month has seen millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf. Can we really afford to allow this to go on?

Can we trust to leave it to BP? In earlier days of this crisis BP got caught spreading representatives out through the Gulf area trying to land cash buy-out settlements from no doubt increasingly desperate commercial fishermen at a cheesely five-thousand dollars a pop.

I want everyone down there to know about something interesting I watched on television a couple of weeks ago on the Alaskan Exxon-Valdez oil spill. A fisherman talked about the financial settlement he got finally, long, long after that oil spill. His settlement? In the range of HALF A MILLION DOLLARS. Gazing forlornly across the water, he pointed out that it didn't really cover the loss. Nothing could.

By the way, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill took place in 1989. The Gulf spill may wind up making the Exxon-Valdez pale by comparison. Scientific estimates project that it might take thirty years or more for a full environmental recovery in Alaska's case.

Where negligence is found, my Grandpa the lawyer used to say, sue the bastards. Make 'em pay.

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Diane V. McLoughlin is a writer and peace activist particularly focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict. She is also concerned about endless war, the steady erosion of civil liberties, and the corruption of mainstream media. She maintains the (more...)
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