A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

BP--The Gusher in the Gulf


On top of the economic slump that has Americans reeling, the tragedy in the Gulf is unfolding into one of the greatest catastrophes in modern history. Let's start off by calling a spade a spade. This is not an oil spill. A spill is something you clean up with a Bounty towel. This is a gusher. 

Why on earth was it left so long to pour into the waters of the Gulf without any sort of intervention? Why? The finger pointing has been disastrous. And while everyone is blaming everyone else, the people of the Gulf states are losing their livelihoods, the wildlife is dying and there is a methane bubble reported to be under the surface of the sea ready to explode. And why is the water red?

President Obama talked about all the "experts" he had assembled when the rig exploded. The rig exploded on April 2oth. His speech was June 15th. That is almost two whole months to deliberate and to take action. What happened? I believe in his high motives, but I can imagine the panels and the deliberation and the charts and the graphs and the meetings and the coffee klatches and the meetings and more meetings and the head-scratchings...and nothing was done. Once again, it is the Washington bureaucratic behemoth that is so ineffective. Meanwhile, the oil spill is on its path of destruction. When a simple solution like straw would have helped to absorb what was happening. With all the genius that has made our country thrive and survive through its history, ideas for stopping the oil leak and for mopping up the oil from the waters were sent by independent scientists and regular citizens to BP and to Washington and some of them were incredibly innovative and clever and effective. None of them were ever used. Why? 

We are not popular with the British people right now. Actually, Americans have been the brunt of  a lot of flack for different reasons over the years: we are fat, slovenly, ignorant, stupid and oh, yes, we gave the world George Bush and the war against the "weapons of mass destruction". When Obama came out with his moniker "British Petroleum" being responsible, the Brits were incensed. First of all, they said, the company has not been "British Petroleum" for years. Secondly, the Brits insist that it was the fault of the Americans for their "greed and need for more and more oil." Jeffery Warner of the Telegraph of London wrote: 


 make no moral judgment on this; it's just the way it is. But whereas US consumption of oil is around 21 million barrels a day, domestic production is just 6 million. The bottom line is that American demand for secure, domestically produced oil requires drilling in ever more inhospitable, dangerous and environmentally sensitive areas that tests the boundaries of established technologies. "Energy independence", free from reliance on foreign supplies, is one of the holy grails of American policymakers. Yet, as the Gulf oil spill has demonstrated, it comes at a price. (May 28, 2010)

Do the British people have a reason to be upset at Obama's treatment of BP?  The British people point out that when Piper Alpha (an American owned company) in the North Sea exploded in 1988, killing 167 people, there was no finger pointing or blaming.  And certainly the Prime Minister then did not address the nation and talk about the fact that Piper Alpha would be "made to pay" anyone. The British called for an investigation, the investigation was carried out, compensation was made and the ones that were killed were honoured.  It was considered part of the dangers of the job the men undertook.  This was reported to be the worst off-shore oil disaster for years (because of the loss of lives).  The Brits do not like the fact that the President was basically "rude" in how he dealt with the situation. "He needs a 9-11 to divert the nation from the tanking economy!" shout the pundits in the UK.   "And his comparing 9-11 to the oil spill does dishonours those who died back then!"  And they are quick to point out that his rhetoric was most unbecoming of the head of a nation, especially an ally.

Union Carbide, the company that was responsible for the Bhopal disaster, the gas leak that not only poised thousands of people, but leaked into the groundwater where it is still killing people has only just begun to make compensations. The disaster was in 1984. 

It is clear to me that both the United States cannot blame the Brits without looking at the enormous environmental  messes that it has made in its own past and its reluctance to compensate other nations. And the British also have to take responsibility for this disaster which they were supervising at the time. They cannot pass the buck.  Americans may need the oil, but BP has been more than happy to provide it and it is evident  that BP were indeed negligent.  Who is to blame? Who the hell cares? Let's get this thing fixed and argue later! This reminds me of children getting into trouble and starting the blame game: "Who did it...you did it! No, you did it!"  Meanwhile, there is broken glass all over the neighbor's lawn and a baseball lodged on a living room sofa. 


This is an absolute tragedy and a travesty...we will be feeling the impact of this disaster for years to come.


As the furor heats up across the pond and Obama alienates the Brits, and the Brits blame Obama and the greedy American oil mongers,  the Gulf situation is escalating.  I wish the rhetoric would stop long enough for someone to do something.  People and animals are dying. While everyone is busy blaming everyone else...the people of the Gulf are suffering.


Stop the blame game. Let's work together before it's too late.