The Gulf of Mexico has been a disaster zone since 20 April 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. 11 workers were killed and 17 more were injured, a fact which rarely gets reported any more. Since then, oil has been leaking (or rather gushing) from the sea bed at a rate of tens of thousands of barrels every day.
The source of the spill is around 41 miles off the coast of Louisianna at a point where the sea bed is around 1,500m deep. The effect on the environment has been terrible and a huge number of peoples’ livelihoods have been badly affected. Not surprisingly, people are angry and want answers. President Obama has been very frank in his views blaming BP and calling them “British Petroleum”, a name which they have not used for many years. This is presumable to distance the US from any blame. He is a President under pressure.
With so many sub-contractors in place, I believe it is wrong to start to point the finger and allocate blame at this stage. An investigation needs to take place in order to establish what actually happened. Blaming people won’t solve anything, lessons need to be learned so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. Sadly, it isn’t the first corporate disaster and it won’t be the last. I can remember the early 1980s when a gas leak from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal killed nearly 4,000 people with other estimates putting the figure much higher.
While the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a terrible disaster, the bigger picture is that large companies and even governments will put profit ahead of everything else. Most of the world’s oil tankers fly under a flag of convenience. They are registered in places such as West Africa or Panama as they have lower standards for the vessel, equipment and crew. There are regular documentaries on TV investigating air and train crashes. Often, the cause is down to lack of maintenance driven by cost cutting.
The pursuit of BP to pay billions in compensation is very short sighted. For arguments sake, if BP were no longer around, does anyone really believe that another oil company wouldn’t step in to take over where they had been operating? In addition, as a company, BP have always paid a good share dividend and this has been of benefit not only to the personal shareholders but also to the pension companies who will have invested both yours and my money in BP, know they will get a return on their money. Destroying BP as some people seem to want, could in turn mean lower pension pots of many people.
A proper investigation is needed and the right people need to be punished. Token fines will change nothing and certainly won’t help the people who are being affected right now.