Here’s something I don’t get; offshore oil. As a whole, I simply don’t understand what our global obsession with this wonder-drug fuel source is. It’s dirty, it’s expensive, it requires massive amounts of resources to build, is highly damaging to the environment and so painfully, obviously dangerous in light of recent events (or in fact its entire history) that it astounds me we still continue to advocate new leases and permissions for these things. I mean, who thinks it’s a good idea to slap one of these beasts in the pristine Arctic Ocean? Come on guys, really?
This sheer confusion of mine has been ratcheted up another level as the infamous BP finally gets the bill for it’s excessive throwing up of oil all over the Gulf of Mexico in the now almost myth-like Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010. The sum - a tasty $4.5 billion, and criminal sentences of manslaughter for two supervisors who were deemed responsible for making sure such drilling platforms didn’t spontaneously explode, but failed to do so. The crux of the legal ruling? ‘Gross negligence’, which I think sums it up pretty nicely.
So that’s a mighty fine slap on the wrists for BP then. Company-reputation is no doubt tarnished for life, although it didn’t take a court ruling to make that point obvious, and the damages they’ve been paying out since the event reach into the tens of billions. The world over now sees offshore drilling for what it really can be; a horribly dangerous and potentially catastrophic process of extraction which surely does not warrant the time, effort and money spent on it.
And to take this even further, in what seems like a brutally ironic twist of fate, just a day after this ruling was complete, another oil rig based in the Mexican Gulf went up in flames too, with at least four missing and two possibly dead. I’m not one to call into play an ‘Act of God’, but that kinda stinks of something trying to be said right?
So you’d think with all this negative attention and bad karma within the offshore oil industry that we might be seeing the beginnings of the end for the whole enterprise, or at least of this form of reckless and risky drilling. Unfortunately, I don’t think that happy eventuality will be coming along anytime soon.
The fines BP are being charged, that $4.5 billion, that is barely change for a company as large and wealthy as they are, and is completely trumped by litigation charges and settlements BP will be handling outside of court on the ground of Water Protection Acts and private nuisance. However, this is to be paid out over several years, not in one big wallop, and indeed, BP is not short of cash. The US Department of Defense for one has contracts worth $2.2 billion a year purely to be provided with fuel from the multinational corporation, so in effect, the DoD would have paid off these fines in just over 2 years. More irony?