The oil gushing from a well head a mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico may take until August to stop. The latest plan that has been concocted by BP could make it worse. Is everyone watching this?
Since BP’s well head in the Gulf of Mexico went up in flames April 20, 2010, a mind boggling amount of petroleum has been released into the environment. Every day 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil are still leaking. (1) Much of it has come to the surface and floating to the Gulf coast of the United States. It is destroying tourism, fisheries, coastal micro environments and taking a huge toll on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people that earn an income from these industries.
Our obsession with petroleum powered automobiles and power plants has placed us in this situation. Since we reached peak oil (2) many years ago, supply has not kept up with demand. This isn’t just be
cause of our usage alone, the entire world is becoming more industrialized and relying on the same resources we have for over a hundred years now.
With the tremendous growth in demand, comes greater risk taking in finding more of the fuel. Once it was relatively safe, cheap and easy to find new sources of oil, now we have to go places that apparently, we don’t know how to bridle if things get out of control. All the plans that were made to prevent and repair this oil leak haven’t worked. The problem with this one well could be small compared to the thousands (3,860 to be precise) we have in the Gulf if they get out of control. What if another one blows up?
It is bad enough that we are destroying our own coast lines. Think if the oil had gone into Mexico or Central America. Not only would this have been an environmental problem it would have been an international problem.
Now, reports are coming to the attention of the media about many of the wells in the Gulf not having the permits needed to actually do the drilling. The government has been very lax on oversight of the exploration. Also, regulators are relying on the expertise of oil company engineers instead of hiring their own experts or seeking third party examination of the company plans. (3) This is happening because both, reports illustrate that there is a much too close relationship between the regulators and the industry and the agencies in charge of the oversight are not funded well enough to be able to afford the staff they need to do the job properly.
What to do?
Tax the entire industry for these problems. This will force other companies to help pay for the problems of anyone of them. Will it raise the cost of gas at the pump? Yes. And maybe that is what we need to help us pay attention to all of this. Nothing focuses attention like paying for a problem.
Fund the agencies that are in charge of oversight appropriately so they can hire their own experts. This will allow the needed critical analyses of the plans to make sure they are going to work in a secure and safe manner.
Stop allowing the close relationship between the regulators and the industry they monitor. No gifts or entertainment with industry people and regulators. Also, make the agency people partially responsible for the problems that their lack of oversight causes.
Make stock holders of the companies that cause the problem pay some of the damages. If you hold stock in the company at the time of the problem, you pay a fine on each share. This will help keep money from being invested in companies that take undue risks and bribe regulators.
Instead of executives of the companies that cause these problems just paying for clean up and a fine from the funds of the companies they run, give them a personal fine and jail time for their poor behavior.
Finally, as a country (and the world for that matter) move away from resources that aren’t renewable. When we depend on a limited resource like oil, it will peak. When it does, risks will be taken that shouldn’t be taken.
Are these tough things to do? Yes. But ask the people on the gulf coast that depend on the fisheries or tourism what they think. If your income was cut off because of this problem, how would you feel? As a community we must work at protecting everyone and preventing this from happening again.
1 How many gallons of gasoline from a barrel of oil? - http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/eng99/eng99288.htm
2 Peak Oil - http://peakoil.com/what-is-peak-oil/
3 BP was doing what was expected - http://responsiblecommunity.blogspot.com/2010/05/bp-was-doing-what-was-expected.html
Date - http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/coal-oil-gas/bp-offshore-oil-rig-explosion