Are big oil companies too big to exist? Do they pose too great a threat to people to be tolerated in their current form? Are we the endangered species?
There is no viable solution insight for the out of control oil gusher
in the Gulf of Mexico. The stunning failure of British Petroleum (BP)
raises the question - are these oil giants too big to exist? Are they
too dangerous to function in our presence? BP has four permanent deep
water structures and 28 boreholes operating at a water depth of greater
than 5000 feet in the Gulf of Mexico. What's next?
British Petroleum (BP) had the resources to drill the well but lacked
the planning and ability to deal with its failure. The oil giant's
performance inspired ridicule by Jon Stewart in a recent Daily Show
will be blame"). The White House was not amused, however. Nobel
Prize winning physicist and Secretary of the Energy, Steven
Chu, is now in Houston with a team of cutting edge scientists
tasked with mentoring BP and devising a viable solution as the oil giant
continues to falter.
There is a well known history of oil company accidents including
blazing oil rigs, the Exxon Valdez tanker leak, and the Prudhoe Bay
pipeline collapse (another BP special). But nothing matches the
collapse of BP's Deepwater Horizon structure at the Macondo
prospect, Gulf of Mexico.
The failed site is gushing
between 200,000 and one million gallons of oil a day into the Gulf
of Mexico. The Center for Biological
Diversity reported that the Minerals Management Service (MMS),
the federal agency that approved drilling,
routinely ignored Federal biologists by issuing waivers that failed
to take in to account the impact of drilling on endangered
Adding humans as an endangered species might be a timely move. The
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produced a
document on April 28 indicating the leak could reach over two
million gallons of oil a day. In addition to ravaging the Gulf of
Mexico, the damage caused by oil may extend to the Florida straits and
the Atlantic coast of the United States.
While BP estimates that it can contain the gusher within
a week, Admiral Thad Allen of the U.S.
Coast Guard is planning for the event to become a full scale
catastrophe. His candid admission that half a million gallons of the toxic
oil dispersant have been released above and below the gulf
indicates the current level of desperation to contain the accumulating
Too Big to Exist
BP is a $250
billion company, one of the six largest oil and natural gas
exploration and marketing companies in the world. It's the largest
corporation in the United Kingdom.
A look at its public safety record over the past five years raises
questions about the ability of the company to function safely. In 2005,
BP's Texas refinery had a series of explosions that killed 15 and
injured 170 more people. Residents near the refinery were confined to
their homes to limit toxic exposure. The U.S. Chemical
Safety Board issued a thorough report laying responsibility at BP's
doorstep. The company's poor maintenance of the Alaska pipeline at
Prudhoe Bay due to "draconian
cuts" in maintenance resulted in a major oil spill in 2006.
CNN conducted a major review of BP's
challenges in light of these two disasters in 2006. Presented with
evidence showing neglect of pipeline corrosion at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
the BP executive in charge claimed, "We were blindsided by the recent
leaks." At congressional hearings, one BP officials invoked the Fifth
Amendment to avoid "self incrimination." BP senior management promised
to take the steps necessary to moderate the company's obsession with the
bottom line at the expense of safety.
Despite promising to remedy the problems it created in both
disasters, BP had a poor track
record of keeping its promises prior to the current catastrophe.
After being chastised by President Barack Obama for creating a
"ridiculous spectacle" in the midst of the crisis, BP's CEO
Tony Howard tried to diminish the scope of the problem. The CEO
insisted that deep sea oil drilling will continue. He's right. BP has
32 Gulf of Mexico oil operations at greater than 5000 feet.
BP is not the only oil company with a poor safety record. It's the
first big oil company to cause a catastrophe of this magnitude. It must
be the last. We simply can't tolerate these lumbering giants that
place cost cutting for bigger executive bonuses above the safety and
survival of those who use their energy products. If you put your
customers out of business and injure or kill them, they can't buy
We are the endangered species.
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