Can you find the ghost fish?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What has BP done?

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of the United States, killing eleven people and wounding 17 others. Due to this explosion, 4.9 million barrels (780,000 cubic meters) of crude oil gushed through the uncapped oil well and spilled into the Gulf of Mexico’s waters. Like all those reading this, I am seeking the truth behind the BP oil spill. What is the current situation? How is it affecting the marine life there? Who is to blame for this? First, I should point out that the aftereffects of the spill are still being looked into, and won’t be fully realized until later on. However, there are some currently known problems already being worked on. The government has held BP responsible for the entirety of the blowup, and is putting all the costs of cleaning, restoration, and compensation to the people whose lifestyles have been affected negatively by the oil spill, including fisherman and those in the tourist business.
One year after the spill, tar balls are still washing up all over the place, on beaches, in fishing nets, etc. Seabirds are still washing ashore, either already dead or dying because they are absolutely covered in oil. The living seabirds are helped as much as possible, but in actuality less than one percent of these oil covered birds fly away, even after being cleaned. The oil completely kills sea turtles and squid that get caught in the tar-like substance. The Exxon Valdez spill affected fishing and life in the area for decades after. BP claims the spill will have a “very, very modest” environmental effect on the region, while scientists and government officials argue a much longer lasting effect. And after adding the thousands of gallons of chemical dispersants, along with their potentially hazardous and toxic effects, and this will just serve to harm the environment all that much more.
Crude oil has many forms, and scientists are still discovering it in other ways, even now. Near the original Deepwater Horizon Rig, they have found a thick layer of sunken oil-like substance completely covering the ocean floor. Dead sea creatures lie buried in the muck. Studies must be done to make sure the oil from the deepwater horizon rig is the same oil on the bottom of the ocean, so as to not go and falsely accuse BP of having done more damage than actuality, but the signs all point to the Deepwater Horizon Rig, including proximity to the original rig location. Scientists have averaged that 20% to 30% of the oil from the rig turned into surface oil that could be cleaned relatively easily, while the vast majority of the oil is still in the ocean in some form or another. The remaining oil must be looked at extensively before the entirety of this dire situation is known. The ocean around the well is dying because of this oil spill. All we know for certain is that the oil causes many problems for life in the ocean, especially for all of the seabirds, and that BP needs to help figure out some kind of solution or remedy for this problem.
I am worried of a repeat of the Exxon spill off of the coast of Alaska. The Exxon Valdez spill is the most expensive oil spill in history to date, and Exxon got off far too lightly. They paid just over a tenth of the damage cost they were originally charged, and actually resulted in a profit from the spill. To imagine BP making money off of a disaster like this completely blows my mind. Who would allow something like that to happen?  To get off the hook like that is unimaginable. Despite it being the most expensive oil spill in history, Exxon actually scraped up profits from the incident, while fighting cleanup costs the entire way. After ages of fighting and court appeals on Exxon’s part, A supreme court decision found that Exxon only had to pay $507.5 million of the original 1994 court decree of $5 billion in punitive charges. BP is expected to pay for the entire cleanup of the spill, but isn’t taking this charge sitting down. I am worried that in the end, BP may profit from this disaster, because the company has completely decimated the gulf ecosystem. Sea turtles covered in oil and now-dead coral are just two of the things the oil has destroyed. Scientific American states that “some 2,000 sea otters, 302 harbor seals and about 250,000 seabirds died in the days immediately following the [Exxon] spill.” BP needs to take action to prevent this from happening to the Gulf animals because of it’s oil.
Now, BP has already taken initiative and spent $16 billion, mostly on damage claims and cleanup. However, seeing as the federal government has given all control over spill cleanup to BP, we have no way of knowing exactly how they used this money. It is nice to see that BP is at least doing something though. Some of the money, however, that BP is using is covering the immense charges that people are issuing on the company. A subcontractor charged $15,400 per month to rent a generator that usually cost $1,500 a month. A company owned in part by the St. Bernard Parish sheriff charged more than $1 million a month for land it had been renting for less than $1,700 a month.
BP CAN NOT be let off the hook like Exxon was. They must be held responsible for the cleanup, the restoration, and the health and safety costs associated with the gulf oil spill. In the first quarter of 2010 alone, BP earned $5.6 billion in profit. They should be required to set this, if not more, aside to provide compensation for all those affected negatively by the spill, including but not limited to fisherman, those in the tourist industry, and those whose health is at risk due to the spill, as well as to aid in cleanup of the actual oil itself. This will begin to pay for the damages, aside from the actual cleanup, they caused with their exploding rig. BP should be held entirely accountable for their actions, and must pay their share to try and remedy the losses they caused for other people. Exxon got off far too easy for causing a disaster of that magnitude. We must learn from past mistakes, and assure that this does not happen again. BP, you must pay for what you have done.


  1. Tom--
    Wow! I really like the strong voice in this piece. That you're invested in the topic is very evident here, and I think that investment really builds a solid ethos. What I wanted to know more about, as a reader, is your claim that BP "actually resulted in a profit from the spill." This seems, to me, both significant to your argument and controversial enough to warrant an expanded discussion. Also, later on you say that "BP may profit from this disaster." Your use of "may" here is confusing to me because before your language sounds like this is something that has already occurred. I can see you're still working on the piece so maybe you already have plans for revision. Keep up the good work and don't give up the strong voice.

  2. I agree with Matt. You have done a great deal of research here and it shows. I cannot wait to see the images you have chosen once they are in place.

    Some suggestions:

    If your information is drawn from an internet source, use hyperlinks in place of the in-text citations. That your very detailed prose is not interrupted by a long url. Every place you ask the question "(hyperlink?)" you are correct :-).

    I think that Matt's question is a good one. Also, any news on the federal court case? Is that how BP is being held responsible for the entire cleanup?

  3. i really like this! you are very informed and you have great passion. pictures and graphs could help a lot but judging by the parenthesis i think you plan to add pictures. very convincing and interesting to read!