Opinion

The Great Debate

How to trust BP again

The Environmental Protection Agency is allowing BP to once again bid on new leases in the Gulf of Mexico — which could happen as early as Wednesday.

As a condition of lifting its ban, the E.P.A. last week issued 53 pages of requirements for the company, which now must create a beefed-up code of conduct for employees; establish a zero tolerance policy for retaliation against whistleblowers; train senior leaders in ethics, and dole out bonuses related to issues like safety and environmental sustainability.

But BP had much of that in place before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 people and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. During my time as a manager of policy development at BP (which ended in 2008), I had to certify every year that I complied with the company’s code of conduct. I used the company hotline when I thought a manager was behaving inappropriately, and was impressed by how my complaint was handled.

Then came Deepwater Horizon. I was as appalled and angry as everyone else in the aftermath of the explosion, as BP repeatedly failed to cap the gushing well and multiple investigations portrayed BP as a company that took too many risks and cut corners in pursuit of profits.

I had to reconcile the BP I thought I knew well with the one that emerged after the disaster. I spoke with peers in other industries — like apparel and technology — that push for safer and more sustainable practices.

Why the coast is key to the survival of New Orleans

USA-RIG/LEAK

The following is a guest post by Mark Davis, a senior research fellow and director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane Law School. The opinions expressed are his own.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill the importance of the ecosystems surrounding New Orleans, and their vulnerability to mankind’s manipulations and mistakes, has never been clearer. Equally clear is the fact that for New Orleans to transform itself and create a better future, the metropolitan area must enter into a new, wiser relationship with the land and water surrounding it.

The fate and fortune of New Orleans have always been, and will always be, tied to the coast. In the past, New Orleans has had a troubled relationship with its watery environs. The proximity to the Mississippi River and the Gulf made the city’s founding and its rise to prominence possible. But the risk of flooding from the river, torrential rains, and the Gulf made it a hard bargain with nature from the beginning.

Too much at stake for long drilling moratorium

Deepwater oil production in the Gulf of Mexico accounted for 23 percent of all oil produced in the United States last year, and 7 percent of all crude consumed in the nation’s refineries, according to the Energy Information Administration’s “Annual Energy Outlook.”

Offshore production has risen 770,000 barrels per day since 1990, helping offset declining output of almost 2.9 million barrels elsewhere. In the Gulf, deepwater has been the fastest growing segment in recent years, accounting for more than three-quarters of all production last year.

Before the blowout of BP’s Macondo well, and the subsequent drilling moratorium, EIA forecast deepwater output would rise another 35 percent to hit 1.67 million barrels per day in 2015, up from 1.23 million bpd in 2009. By then, Gulf deepwater output would account for almost 29 percent of all oil produced in the United States.

BP’s crisis is no Three Mile Island

The catastrophic blowout at Macondo has sliced 40 percent off BP’s market capitalisation, and led analysts to speculate about lasting reductions in deepwater drilling and the resulting impact on both long-term oil supply and the fate of climate change legislation.

The underlying fear is that Macondo is the oil industry’s Three Mile Island, an accident that turned public opinion against nuclear power for three decades.

Investors are right to fear the long-term impact on the company. But they exaggerate the impact on the wider industry and the prospects for climate change legislation. BP however faces a very changed operating environment in future.

from The Great Debate UK:

BP Gulf of Mexico crisis will transform the oil industry

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-Kees Willemse is professor of off-shore engineering, Delft University.  The opinions expressed are his own.-

The news that a huge metal cap has been successfully placed over several of the leaking oil vents at the Deepwater Horizon site marks a potential turning point in the Gulf of Mexico crisis.

It is already estimated that each day some 10-15,000 barrels of the oil that are spilling out into the ocean are being captured and diverted to ships on the sea surface.

from The Great Debate UK:

How much damage will the BP oil spill cause?

-Kees Willemse is professor of offshore engineering at Delft University. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Last month’s explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig continues to result in the leakage of an estimated 200,000 gallons (910,000 litres) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

According to U.S. President Barack Obama, “we are dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster”.

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