2010-07-07 / Editorials

Oil Cleanup Must Be Done Better, Faster

The oil spill that resulted from the April 20 explosion on the BP deep sea oil drilling platform Deepwater Horizon still continues, with estimates of the oil pouring into the once pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico amounting to 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The oil slick at the surface covers at least 2,500 square miles with the exact size and location of the slick fluctuating from day to day depending on weather conditions. Immense oil plumes not visible at the surface have been reported as well.

The lucrative fishing and tourism industries in the Gulf have been and will continue to be seriously affected. That the spill will result in an environmental disaster of unprecedented magnitude already impacting on marine and wildlife habitats is also an established fact. The catastrophic effect on all aspects of life in the states with shorelines lapped by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico will be felt for years to come.

A variety of ongoing efforts to stem the flow of oil at the wellhead are ongoing and crews using skimmer ships, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, and sandfilled barricades along shorelines have been working to protect hundreds of miles of beaches, wetlands and estuaries along the northern Gulf coast. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party in the incident, and officials have said the company will be held accountable for all cleanup costs resulting from the oil spill.

This is a fair start at a beginning of cleaning up the catastrophic mess. But the fact remains that for generations—perhaps for centuries—life for humans and wildlife, flora and fauna, will have been seriously impacted and in many instances will never be the same. Nor is this disaster confined to America’s Gulf Coast. Naturally occurring ocean currents could bring the oil spill to the eastern seaboard, including beaches in the tri-state area. Prices for some food items have already begun to rise in anticipation of shortages of certain items. Of course, prices at area gas stations are beginning to reflect the effects of the spill.

BP has instituted a $20 billion fund to provide for the human victims of the oil spill, a laughable amount accounting for perhaps one-tenth of the short- and long-range catastrophic damage their practices and procedures have brought about. To our shock, some elected officials have gone so far as to deplore the $20 billion BP “shakedown”. Plainly, some people have their priorities very mixed. BP is not the victim here— indeed, $20 billion is a single year’s profit for the global giant. The victims are the families who cannot put food on their tables or make their mortgage payments because the industries in which they made their livings no longer exist, the business owners who cannot pay their employees because the spill destroyed their ability to maintain their customer base and the wildlife dying by the score every day.

America has long been said to lead the world in technical know-how, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Sadly, we have seen little sign of any willingness on the part of the current presidential administration to invoke these qualities to meet the challenge of the disaster in the Gulf. President Barack Obama has publicly scolded BP officials, but otherwise announced very few, if any, plans to help the people, industries and wildlife to survive, now and in the future. Judging from the experiences of the past two and a half months, we cannot expect, nor should we depend on BP to find the best, fastest, most efficient and least environmentally impacting way out of this mess. America for years has dealt with catastrophes not of its own making in other parts of the world. It is time to bring the lessons we learned from those experiences to the mess in our own backyard. We must unleash the great American “Can-Do” spirit and let individuals and local groups help to clean up this mess. Clearly the government and BP cannot.

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