Update : This post appears in the Sunday, June 13, 2010 editorial section of the Joplin Globe.
It is also available at the Joplin Globe online.
Deluded folks have said that the Deepwater Horizon oil will follow the magic carpet of Gulf and Atlantic water circulation and go away. Beach paradises in the U.S. will stay white and squeaky clean! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!!! Just listen to these deluded folks and real, sticky, oily problems (like the tar balls now on Florida’s beaches) won’t bother you.
The deluded folks are wishing for more than magically-clean beaches. They are wishing that Big Oil and Big Business won’t get blamed for a giant oil spill. Some pundits and politicians have another way to keep Big Oil and Big Business from being blamed for messes. They say that it’s the government’s fault!
They say that the disastrous events in the Gulf of Mexico would not have been so bad if there were less government. They say that companies such as British Petroleum – BP – would have been better prepared to handle a catastrophe in mile-deep water if BP didn’t have to deal with environmental regulations. If allowed to conduct business freely, then current events would not include beaches awash with tar balls.
This is a lie. Even contractors, developers, and small jurisdictions (towns & cities) can handle environmental regulations and still do their work competently. And government has mostly let companies like BP tell government how to supervise oil wells.
BP gave the U.S. government an ‘Environmental Impact Statement‘ in its application for a permit to drill the Deepwater Horizon well. Typically, a public review process allows criticism of an application. The process doesn’t really allow for criticism of an application to interfere with its approval. Criticism may force an applicant to re-write the paperwork, but only enough to make the paperwork meet statutory requirements.
The fact – that there is no proven and practiced means to promptly fix a well blow-out in mile-deep water – will not stop an application from being approved. There may be a statutory requirement for a *statement* in the application regarding oil clean-up, but there is no requirement for demonstrated capability.
That statement does not constitute a burden to BP or any other company. What has BP done, while the U.S. government practiced laissez faire oversight? Has BP spent its corporate resources on developing effective means to clean up oil spills? We now know that, in certain years, BP’s R&D (research & development) budget for this was $0.00 – zero. Not minimal. Not insufficient. Not less-than-we-think-necessary. Not we’ll-spend-just-barely-enough. Zero.
While money gushed from our pockets into BP’s bank account (recent profits have been about $2 billion per month), smaller companies have attempted to develop ways to clean oil spills. Their efforts seem to have been of little interest to Big Oil. There hasn’t been a new or more effective oil-spill management technology in decades.
The reason is simple. BP and Big Oil have little incentive to be environmentally responsible. It gets in the way of those who would ‘get ‘er done’. It uses some of today’s profits (which are sacred) to preserve a future for beaches, fisheries, and more.
This is why President Eisenhower warned us about letting Big Business run everything – writing the regulations and legislation, and buying the regulators and legislators. BP has gotten what BP paid for. We have gotten the very proof that some pundits and politicians are lying to us.
About that Environmental Impact Statement of BP’s: it said that, in the event of a spill at the Deepwater Horizon well, no oil would reach beaches. You know, no oil – zero. Kinda like that R&D budget they had for oil clean-up.