Better Practices needed for BP

Still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, coastal Louisiana is watching from the sidelines as slow moving oil slick creeps upon its shores. The oil is from the tanker DeepWater Horizon leased by the BP (used to stand for British Petroleum but in 2007 Britain’s third largest company started marketing themselves as Beyond Petroleum for a more global, greener image). The tanker exploded and sank approximately 40 miles offshore, killing 11 workers. Early estimates proved too optimistic, reports now say about 200,000 gallons of oil per day could be spewing from the site. This disaster may surpass the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. Even today, more than two decades later, the Prince William Sound in Alaska is still recovering.

This is devastating for Louisiana. The state’s economy relies on its coastal ecosystem. It is the largest producer of seafood in the lower 48 states. Over $1.8 billion dollars is spent on the retail sales of seafood and $1 billion dollars in the sport fishing industry. Louisiana has 40% of the US total wetlands. Wetlands are vital areas for fish and shellfish to grow, they act as a type of nursery grounds. Sadly, the oil spill happened at the peak spawning time for fish.

How did this accident occur? Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is investigating the 30 offshore oil rigs and 47 production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. I hope it did not happen because last year a senior BP executive was successful in thwarting the regulation of mandatory safety codes for oil rigs (these would apparently be too much of a hassle and slow construction).

BP is responsible for the cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico, but President Obama said at the White House Thursday that “every single available resource” would be used.

For its part, BP has enlisted the federal, state and local governments for assistance, and it’s been issuing regular updates on its company website, unfortunately BP officials don’t seem to be making any guarantees they are equipped to stop the flow of oil from reaching Gulf shores alone.

One aspect of the cleanup effort involved the burning of the oil off the surface of the water. Many compassionate environmentalists have been volunteering for the cleanup efforts as well. Floating barriers have been put up to block the contact of the oil to the wetlands.

One great irony of the week is that the federal government did make an effort for the US to be more energy independent. Interior Secretary Salazar approved the construction of Cape Wind, the first offshore wind turbine. The 130 turbines will be in an area off the coast of Man130-turbine proposal for the Horseshoe Shoal area of Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Nantucket Sound near Massachusetts. Once the two year construction project is complete, Cape Wind should generate around 1.5 million megawatt-hours of renewable electricity each year, or enough to supply about 230,000 homes.

Another is that the oil disaster happens just as President Obama recently announced plans to expand offshore drilling. Yet just as reports of the first oil was reaching Louisiana shores, a senior adviser to President Obama told The New York Times that those plans could be on hold.

“The deadly explosion of an offshore oil rig last week and the resulting spill have complicated Mr. Obama’s recently announced plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling, with some politicians and environmental advocates calling on the president to halt any planned expansions until more safeguards are put into place against future disasters,” the newpaper reported.

Too bad those safeguards come too late for Louisiana.

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