Friday, 23 July 2010

Drilling for oil

The US government has named BP as the responsible party for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that has lead to the devastating oil slick spreading around the Gulf of Mexico. The perception is that it BP owns the rights to the Macondo Prospect so it is all their fault. But that is not entirely true.

For the Americans BP is a handy scapegoat. It is a foreign company-only 40% owned by Americans and American investors has a reputation for shoddy health and safety practices, and corner and cost cutting.

It didn't help that the CEO of BP, a man easy to write off as a chinless wonder with a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth tried to downplay the volume of the oil leaking into the Gulf.

In the face of rabid demands for action by the American public politicians are getting in on the act and are turning up the blow torch on BP to stem the leak and clean up the spilled oil that threatens to devastate marine and marshland ecology's in the region and destroy tourism and fishing industries for generations to come. But it is not that easy fix a gusher thousands of meters below the surface of the sea.
And all is not all that it seems in the murky world of oil industry and American politics. Not least that on the one hand America has an insatiable lust for oil but not for the by products of the oil extraction process when things go wrong.

It has also emerged in the last few days that a number of sensor alarms had been turned off on the rig at behest of Transocean staff and after the explosion a blowout protector didn't engage after the explosion. Hardly BP's fault since Transocean owned and largely staffed the rig.

So three months after the oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that has allowed millions of litres of crude oil to leak into the sea the truth is starting to come out about who is actually to blame for this environmental catastrophe.

BP must bare a large chunk of the blame for the leak and the cleanup. They are the major shareholder in the consortium drilling the well. Who knows what that will cost them and whether they will even survive in their current form given the cost of cleanup and any fines that will result. But they aren't totally to blame and some other entities are soon going to come under the spotlight.
The interesting thing will be to see whether faced with the obvious lack of regulation of the drilling in the first place, probable corruption by local officials charged with oversight, and failure to to follow safety procedures by Transocean Americans face up to the fact that they only have themselves and their system to blame for the whole mess and the way the aftermath is being handled.

American politics at all levels seems so petty and partisan that it wouldn't be a surprise me that if at some time in the near future the whole country imploded into a number of ideologically pure warring mini states. Something like a continent of lawless nuclear armed Somalia's.

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