Environment / Laura Owen

Forgotten News: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


2010 saw the “worst environmental disaster the US has faced”, according to White House energy adviser Carol Browner. On 20 April, an explosion of Deepwater Horizon, which drilled on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect resulted in the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.  It took almost 3 months for the gushing well to be capped, during which time it had released about 4.9 billion barrels of crude oil.

Although receiving little or no media attention any more, the effects of this disaster are still being felt today. Media coverage did not even step up when a BP oil rig worker announced recently that he had reported an oil leak weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster (RT News World Update 2012). The worker claimed that he had told both BP and the rig operator of a problem with a piece of equipment blamed by many for causing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. No detailed examination of these claims seems to be underway.

Extensive damage was caused to marine and wildlife habitats and also to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Birds and bees are, over two years later, still being seen falling out of the sky and coastline habitats have not returned to their pre-disaster state. Eight US national parks are threatened with over 400 species living in the Gulf islands and marshlands at risk.

Alarming numbers of mutated fish are appearing in the Gulf. Toxic chemicals used in the cleanup are being blamed as the cause for these deformities, which include fish with oozing sores and “eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard…and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes”, according to one local woman (http://news.discovery.com/earth/mutant-shrimp-swim-the-gulf-two-years-after-bp-spill-120419.html.) The impact of the oil spill on tourism across the Gulf Coast could exceed $23 billion over a three-year period, according to the US Travel Association. To help mitigate these effects, BP announced late last year that it plans to spend $78 million to help Louisiana tourism and test and advertise seafood. In addition, BP is seeking to settle costs related to the disaster at $15 billion (despite estimates that it owes $192 billion).

Feelings that BP is doing the minimum possible to compensate after the disaster, combined with memories of former CEO Tony Hayward being caught entering a yacht race while the disaster was in full flow, remain deep in the memories of residents near the spill. Consequences of this disaster have been felt worldwide and faith in BP as well as the wider oil industry has been blighted. Many people are left fearful of using oil as an energy source and hopes to move away from oil dependency are greater than ever.

One thing seems to be for sure – as long as we are dependent on oil, there will be accidents. With hundreds of oil spills now reported ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills) we can only hope that future spills will be minor.

Laura Owen


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