Can the World Handle Another Gulf Oil Spill from BP or Other Oil Companies?

A pelican bird living among the Gulf Oil Spill disaster in the US.

A pelican bird living among the Gulf Oil Spill disaster in the US.

Tony Hayward, former BP CEO, says BP will make sure the company applies the lessons learned from the US Gulf Oil Spill to the drilling efforts in the North Sea. This came from Hayward during an Energy and Climate Change Committee’s (ECCC) investigation as to whether BP and oil companies should be able to start deep-water drilling in the West of Shetlands. Meanwhile, a recent report has shown that there now lies a 2 inch or more sediment of oil on the floor of the Gulf waters. Is the risk too high?

Samantha Joyce, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia reported that in conducting a study of the seafloor in the Gulf there was found a deep layer of oil sediment. This despite reports by many in the media that the impact of the spill was less than feared.

She said in an interview with NPR concerning her study: “I’ve collected literally hundreds of sediment cores from the Gulf of Mexico, including around this area. And I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s very fluffy and porous. And there are little tar balls in there you can see that look like microscopic cauliflower heads.”

In a report entitled Outcome/Guidance from Georgia Sea Grant Program: Current Status of BP Oil Spill by Chuck Hopkinson, Director, Georgia Sea Grant, there was reference made as to the amount of oil that scientists believe is still damaging the ecosystem. It said: “On August 2, 2010, the National Incident Command (NIC) released a report on the status of oil from the BP oil spill. The findings of the report are being widely reported in the news media as suggesting that 75% of the oil is “gone” and only 25% remains. However, many independent scientists are interpreting the findings differently, with some suggesting that less than 10% is “gone” and up to 90% remains a threat to the ecosystem. Considering the vulnerability of the southeast Atlantic coast to oil being carried our way by the Gulf Stream, it is critical that we determine which of these interpretations of the report is more accurate.”

The report goes on to say: “The NIC report states that oil released into the water, that has not been contained by skimming or burning, is currently in one of four states: 1) dispersed as micro-droplets, 2) dispersed as micro-droplets with dispersant coating, 3) dissolved (some of which has evaporated) and 4) residual. Together, these forms make up the unrecovered 90%. The news media’s tendency to interpret “dispersed” and “dissolved” as “gone” is wrong. Dispersed and dissolved forms can be highly toxic. Furthermore, sorting the oil into the four above states falls far short of assessing how much of it remains a potential threat to the system.”

The economic impact on an already struggling economy in the US has been traumatic to their entire Nation. The people in and around the Gulf area have lost complete life savings, homes, and businesses that will never be replaced. The environmental damage will take lifetimes to recover and will never be the same despite any efforts to clean up. The impact on future health of the ecosystem as well as the safety of food recovered from the area will require billions of US dollars to study.

When reports have come out that the damage left of the BP Gulf Oil Spill as well as the lives lost from the explosion could be from the fact that corners were cut to save costs and that personnel are not properly trained for safety issues, it brings to mind if the world is ready for another Gulf Oil Spill? Can BP or any other company truly pay back what is lost? How long will the US be paying for the mistake of companies who failed to follow procedures or regulations?

It will do not only the North Sea well for the ECCC to be thorough in their investigation but it will do well for the world, as well as future generations. It isn’t enough to set up policies or regulations if budgets will push those aside in favor of profits. BP says blame is to be shared in the events in the Gulf. Should another accident such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico occur again, closer to home, the blame will be shared by those that make the decision to allow drilling to continue without a better safety net in place and by those responsible for making sure safety is followed despite budgets and time tables.

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