Thursday afternoon, for a brief second, it seemed like there was to be yet another disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Five months after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 people and causing the largest oil spill in the history of the US, there was another accident on an oil rig. A Mariner Energy platform 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana had an explosion, sending 13 workers into the ocean and causing one to be injured. Luckily, the platform’s seven wells had been shut down shortly before the fire for maintenance, so no open well was leaked into the Gulf. Even with reports circulating of a mile-long oil slick around the platform, in a post-Deepwater Horizon context there is a distinct feeling of catastrophe averted.
Still, the incident has raised serious questions about the safety procedures of the oil industry in the Gulf. Think Progress reports that Mariner Energy has been fined twice this year already, totaling $55,000, and a further $30,000 back in 2007. Mariner’s new owner has been cited for $1.74 million in fines since 1998, including a $435,000 fine this year for removing a piece of a sump system which “could not automatically maintain oil at a level sufficient to prevent discharge into the Gulf of Mexico.” Continue reading →
I can think of great political reasons why President Obama wants to create a six-month drilling ban on new deep-water oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico. There are millions of gallons of oily black good reasons pouring into the water right now: reasons that are washing up in tar balls on the shores of Louisiana and Florida, toxic blobs of reason covering seabirds and killing fish.
Dan Shapely at Think Green debunks the myth that we should call the situation at Deepwater Horizon a “spill,” along with other harmful misconceptions about the scale of BP’s folly. Spills do not gush thousands of gallons of oil a day into the ocean. Simply cutting off the source and cleaning up the mess can rectify spills. Deepwater Horizon’s underwater oil geyser is on a greater scale than any spill. The president’s drilling ban is weak. Shady politics are distorting the fact we need a permanent ban on all new drilling. And on top of that, we need the government to invest in alternative energy research and reform our environmental regulations now. Continue reading →
A clip on Rachel Maddow’s show Thursday showed that the oil leak still pouring into the Gulf of Mexico bears an uncanny resemblance to one from 1979. Each one of the failed containment plans (top hat, top kill and junk shot) was tried unsuccessfully in 1979; indeed, both platforms were owned by the same company–Transocean Ltd. Maddow points out that only relief wells eventually plugged the 1979 leak.
Yet the oil spill also obliquely recalls in form the global financial crisis of 2008. In particular, it demonstrates the inability of lawmakers to learn from the mistakes that lead to the crisis.