Exploiting the spill

May 27, 2010

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a serious problem, and could get worse if the capping maneuver being attempted by BP fails. But the spill is not “Obama’s Katrina” (Rush Limbaugh) or “destroying North America” (Chris Mathews) or “a national tragedy” (Robert Redford). Except for the 11 workers who died, and their families, is the spill even a “disaster,” as is being said by practically everyone?

The recent history of serious environmental events is that as they occur, their significance is drastically exaggerated in media and political commentary: then little attention is paid when supposedly “destroyed” areas recover rapidly. When Mount Saint Helen’s exploded in 1980, many scientists said the local biosphere would require centuries to return to life; pundits said this would never happen.

Instead it took the area about 10 years for most wildlife and plant life (except mature trees, of course) to recover. When the Exxon Valdez spilled about 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound in 1989, commentators called that an unprecedented calamity. Considerable harm was done, and some residual problems remain to this day. But aquatic and intertidal life were mainly back to normal in less than a decade.

We forget that the biosphere has been conditioned, over the eons, to resist and recover from far worse than oil spills – comet strikes, ice ages, super-volcanoes. Life would not be here if it were not able to resist insults worse than any caused by people. That does not excuse BP – the company deserves strong public condemnation – nor forgive the Interior Department for being in bed with big oil. (Surely this will make you feel safer.) But the sense of perspective is missing.

“I heard someone say last night this well could give off oil unfettered for the rest of our lives on Earth,” Brian Williams supposed on NBC Nightly News on Tuesday. “That’s right,” his guest replied. There is no chance that’s right, unless you have some reason to believe the human experiment is about to conclude. If similar past events are a guide, the spill will do less total damage than now expected, while recovery will happen faster than expected. Eleven people are dead, Louisiana wetlands and Gulf of Mexico fisheries are damaged. That is awful, but not the epic calamity being depicted.

So far the worst-case estimates for the volume of oil leaked are roughly in the range of the Amoco Cadiz oil spill of 1978. Wednesday morning, CNN quoted unnamed sources as saying oil is leaking at the rate that works out to about 60 million gallons so far.

The Amoco Cadiz oil spill was about 65 million gallon. That spill caused a broad range of problems for the Brittany coast and its tidal rivers, but no lasting “disaster” – Brittany has long since returned to being a magnet for tourism. BP’s estimates put the leak volume lower, at about 8 million gallons so far. That is a fraction of the 43 million gallons spilled by the Odyssey, and most likely you don’t know where or when that spill happened, let alone recall the event as a disaster.  (The depressing inventory of major oil spills is here.)

POLITICAL DISASTER

Political convenience is a reason figures left and right are exaggerating the severity of the spill. Conservatives, who often downplay environmental concerns, suddenly are ultra-green and using the “Obama’s Katrina” nonsense to denounce the president. Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people and depopulated much of a major city: the Deepwater Horizon spill isn’t vaguely close in significance.

Republicans, among them Rep. John Mica of Florida, are waving around a timeline that shows Obama has spent less time in Louisiana in the aftermath of the spill than George W. Bush spent in the same number of days following Katrina. Conservative talk radio host Jeff Kuhner denounced Obama for planning to go to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, rather than go to the Gulf – to what, personally clean a bird? (Now the president will head to Louisiana.)

Bush was unfairly slammed by Democrats for not visiting New Orleans immediately after the hurricane – and now the same sort of unfair criticism is being directed at Obama. The elder George Bush was unfairly slammed for not going to Prince William Sounds, as if the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who went immediately, wasn’t the appropriate person. The key question for any of these presidents isn’t whether they went to the scene for an admiring photo-op, the key question is whether they directed an effective response.

Democrats are using the Gulf spill for political purposes, too. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the spill means greenhouse-gas regulations should be enacted immediately. The two concerns are unrelated; greenhouse restrictions, if already law, would not have prevented the Deepwater Horizon from exploding, nor ended demand for its oil. Democrats including Rep. Edward Markey demanded the BP video of the leak be shown live. If the goal was raising public awareness of U.S. oil addiction, showing the leak video makes sense; but the goal is to generate politically embarrassing images.

There’s a financial aspect to the exaggeration, too. Billions of dollars in federal payments went to Louisiana after Katrina. The clock on those payments has run out – and now many in Louisiana, perhaps the nation’s most corrupt state, see the spill as a chance to resume reaching into the nation’s pocket. “These people are crying, they’re begging for something… we’re about to die down here,” Louisiana’s Democratic political operative James Carville said Tuesday on ABC’s Good Morning America, speaking from New Orleans. An absurd excess of overstatement, or an appeal for yet another federal giveaway?

After mostly-Republican Alaska was showered with special payments in the wake of the Exxon Valdez, many Alaskans began to wish for more handouts. PLEASE GOD, JUST ONE MORE SPILL was a common bumper-sticker in Alaska about a decade ago. Now Louisiana finds itself  with a political incentive to make it seem the oil spill is a second Katrina.

For the media, the spill is that most-desirable of stories – visual bad news. “You turn on the television and see this enormous disaster,” California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said a few days ago, announcing he now opposes offshore drilling. (Everyone wants unlimited amounts of gasoline that comes from that magical place, Somewhere Else.) Greenhouse gases are many orders of magnitude more troubling, as environmental and as social issues, than an oil spill. But they’re invisible. They’re terrible television. The spill is really good television.

Institutional Washington benefits from exaggerating the severity of oil harm in the Gulf. The Deepwater Horizon explosion “has unleashed a gusher of congressional hearings that may prove nearly as hard to cap as the blown well,” Associated Press reporter Tom Raum noted. With an election approaching, politicians of both parties want to be televised while fulminating about the spill or BP or Obama’s response – though many now appearing on the tube to comment on drilling mud and blowout preventers six weeks ago didn’t even know a Minerals Management Service existed.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has made trips to the Gulf to view the spill and speak for the cameras. Interior, the EPA and the Coast Guard have good reasons to be dealing with the spill: for Homeland Security, perhaps the spill can be leveraged into some nice empire-building. Many in Washington right now are pondering how the oil slick can be exploited to increase their budgets.

The Deepwater Horizon spill is a terrible event that has taken 11 lives, harmed Louisiana, and could get worse if the leak isn’t stopped soon. But the environmental harm is likely to be less, and shorter-lived, than commentary suggests. Meanwhile about 3,400 people have died in auto accidents in the United States since the day that drill platform exploded. The vehicles involved in the crashes that killed those 3,400 people were running on petroleum – and we would be entirely outraged if ample amounts weren’t available. Close to 100 Americans will die in traffic accidents today, and little or nothing is done, let alone an “enormous disaster” proclaimed. Perspective is not the strong point of American politics.

WILL BP CHANGE ITS NAME TO BS?
Footnote: one reason anger about the spill did not seem to build for the first two weeks is that BP over the last decade has done a masterful job of buying public opinion. CEOs John Browne and now Tony Hayward have been fixtures at environmental conferences and think tanks, saying all the right things about clean energy and corporate governance. BP was a leading donor to Barack Obama when he was a senator and spent $15.9 million in 2009 on U.S. lobbying, Erika Lovley of Politico recently reported.

Crafty image-creation — and the CEOs’ tasteful British accents, no Texas drawls — seemed to blind the Washington and New York establishments to BP’s record. The Deepwater Horizon blast wasn’t some weird anomaly for BP – in 2005, one of the company’s refineries exploded, killing 15 workers. Five years later, BP is still fighting a $87 million federal fine for some 300 safety violations at the facility. Here is the Center for Public Integrity on BP. Here is Second City satirizing BP’s self-serving image ads. At this point the company needs a slogan to replace “Beyond Petroleum.”

My suggestions:
BP: Pillaging the Environment One Ocean at a Time
BP: We Make Goldman Sachs Look Responsible
BP: George III’s Revenge

46 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Is this guy serious?

Posted by mritt400 | Report as abusive

WTF is wrong with you man. This is like saying the Union Carbide chemical Spill in India wasn’t a big deal. There are STILL people living in India who are crippled because of that. Seriously, cut the propaganda, we aren’t uneducated clods.

Posted by murfster | Report as abusive

Finally, someone who is willing to report the truth, and not just manipulate the truth for their own benefit. Good job!

Posted by skomalley | Report as abusive

Chernobyl wasnt a big deal either….

Posted by bryanborenstein | Report as abusive

Finally someone puts it out there more in line with the truth. This really is being blown out of proportion. I work for one of the companies involed in this mess so I know more than most about what is going on. It is tragic to be sure…but it’s not nearly as bad as the media is making it out to be.

Posted by deadalus72 | Report as abusive

Gregg,

This is the most insensitive article I’ve ever read on Reuters.
That oil spill is destroying one of nature’s wonders, and it is affecting the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people in gulf states who depend on tourism and fishing.
It is a national tragedy in every sense of the word, and its impact will be felt for decades.

I’m for offshore drilling, simply because we have no other choice, but it should be done with a much better and safer technology.

Posted by yr2009 | Report as abusive

“We forget that the biosphere has been conditioned, over the eons, to resist and recover from far worse than oil spills”

I don’t think anyone’s expecting the world to end…people are upset because the environment will be damaged for years, the economies of coastal regions will be damaged for years…and people not only care about the world around them but we have a limited lifespan so what happens in the next decade or two matters to us. From this guy’s perspective it seems we might as well drop toxic waste in the rivers because the biosphere has dealt with bigger problems.

This is one of the most ridiculous and socially irresponsible articles I have read on Reuters. I’m disappointed the editor decided to publish it.

Posted by ryan_divers | Report as abusive

The real truth lies somewhere in between the two polar-opposite opinions of those on the right and those on the left. Both sides want to manipulate with their propaganda. The spill is bad, I am certain, AND the Earth will find a way to recover. Hopefully, our mother Earth will discover a creative way to deal with its biggest problem – humans!

Posted by Death2Communism | Report as abusive

Is this guy serious? I will have him put his ideology where his mouth is and have him eat oysters or shrimp from the gulf waters for the next ten years – see what he gets.

To say that the millions of animals, fish, and wildlife damaged and destroyed is not a tragedy is pathetic – tell that also to the people who have lost their livelihood because they will not be able to fish their for many years or the marshes that will never come back.

The biosphere is well conditioned to survive this, but WE and the ecosystems that took millions of years to develop to the current state will not. The earth will still surely be here, we and everything in it will not, because of greed and excuse artist like this.

He should come and see what I am seeing and then maybe if ever he plans to be serious and leave NYC or from wherever he’s at, and come to visit, THEN talk.

Posted by brownonwhite | Report as abusive

Something that isn’t often mentioned about the Exxon Valdez accident is that for several years afterward, the salmon catch in and around Prince William Sound was much larger than normal. This was because some of the salmon’s natural predators (sea birds) were decimated while the salmon themeselves were not. This is ***NOT*** to imply in any way whatsoever that this made the whole fiasco any less horrid, and I’d be the last person on earth to advocate killing birds to get more fish!–it’s just that there tend to be unexpected phenomena when something like this happens, because we have no past experience upon which to predict them. There’s much to learn here, which may be of use when something like it happens again, despite the no doubt much greater effort that’s going to be made to prevent it.

Posted by Art_In_Seattle | Report as abusive

Gregg, you must be one vile, disgusting excuse for a human being to suggest that this isn’t “all that bad”. Or are you just a BP/Transocean shill? My money’s on the latter, but I would be curious to know just what compels someone to write this kind of garbage. Seriously, are you on the payroll?

And to the people who suggest this is no big deal, please direct yourselves to the nearest skimming vessel or animal cleaning station, sans respirator of course, and tell us all about it, mmmmmk?

Posted by petrovsky9 | Report as abusive

The satellite images tell a different story. There will never be a “real” body count of the creatures far and wide that have already and will die because of this….Not everything dead will wash ashore…..

Sure, in a decade the effects of the spill will not be as noticeable…Now tell that to the people who will lose their livelihood for that decade. Look them in the eyes and tell them it isn’t a disaster and the media is blowing it out when their fishing boats/homes are repoed. Tell them it isn’t a disaster when they are in the hospital fighting for their lives from the effects of the chemicals used to disperse the oil…Tell it to their grandchildren who are poverty stricken because the family business can no longer operate because all of the fish are contaminated…..Go right ahead. Don’t be surprised if you get your a$$ kicked though.

Posted by Pantalones | Report as abusive

Brilliant article, Mr. Easterbrook. The vociferousness of the negative responses indicates you have angered quite a few greenies. I would add that the media, in general, is guilty of blowing almost everything up out of proportion. The last time I looked, the Euro was hurtling headlong toward disaster. Disaster? Oh really? It’s much the same with other large news events. I suspect that problem arises from the fact that there are so many newsgathering and reporting outfits out there today, all trying to grab peoples’ attention and using the scariest, most dramatic headlines and articles possible to ensure eyeballs are turned THEIR way and not to the other guy’s. Advertising revenues, not to mention oversized egos, all are riding on this intense competition. Perspective, not truth, is the first caualty.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive

“I heard someone say last night this well could give off oil unfettered for the rest of our lives on Earth”
Does this sound even remotely possible, a limitless oil reserve?

Offshore drilling does have alternatives, Saudi Arabia. Or, you could buy from those friendly neighbors the Canadians. I hear the oil sands in Alberta, Canada are second only to the Saudis’ reserve.

Brilliant perspective to the political/journalistic spin that is currently popularized. I also wonder if such exposure would be taking place if this wasn’t a foreign oil company being blamed.

Posted by J.R.Woods | Report as abusive

Are you serious?? I’m stunned.

I can’t say it any better than the previous poster (pantalones).

Posted by nolachick70 | Report as abusive

J.R.Woods – Canada is America’s number one oil supplier – not the Saudis, Iranians, Iraqis, Russians, Venezualans or whomever. Canada has been in the Top 5 for many years and has recently claimed top spot more often than not. It’s surprising how many Americans are unaware of that fact.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive

Gotthardbahn is on the ball.

Posted by J.R.Woods | Report as abusive

I am a Canadian, I work in the oil sands in Alberta. I was just pretending to be naive to get the ignorant behind our “clean” land based reserves.

Posted by J.R.Woods | Report as abusive

This is not Obama’s Katrina.
This is Obama’s Chernobyl.

Do not forget to vote.

Posted by ForeverSPb | Report as abusive

while I am for the environment, and it is a true tragedy, I do agree with Mr. Easterbrook. While a tragedy, it is not a disaster of the proportion the media is trying to make it to be. Yes, there will be widespread environmental damage and don’t forget the 11 people who died. Yes Lousiana gets a double whammy. But comopare how many lives were lost with Katrina? and that bill was and is paid by us tax payers. While we will still have to chip in here, its not to the same magnitude. here, (i hope) BP has to pony up.

Posted by tchan012 | Report as abusive

So we’ve gone from “drill baby drill”, to, “it’s not as bad as all that”? I’m not so sure that any resident of the affected area would share in the general sentiment of this article.

It would be one thing if this was a legitimate accident. But it wasn’t. BP has shown itself to be thoroughly unprepared for this incident. They had no back up plan in the event of a failure in their already neglected safety shutoff system. And they have no proven technology or skill available to them, to safely, quickly, and effectively deal with a safety system failure. They’ve been learning as they go at our expense.

This blowout could have been prevented. And that’s what has people so angry. It’s the fact that those who make the decisions, knew that there were problems that should have been addressed and chose not to. It’s the fact that a desire to trim a little overhead, lead to a blowout that now destroys or cripples, the lives and livelihoods of thousands of families who rely on the Gulf.

That’s a “big f!@#$%g deal”.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

Fair enough, Mr. Woods. Your comments are much appreciated. I work at King & Bay in Toronto and the ignorance out there really does take my breath away at times. While I’m no expert on the oil industry, being in the financial markets requires at least more than a passing understanding of the energy business. The misinformation – and disinformation – in the popular media about the oil market is astonishing, and I felt Mr. Easterbrook did well in calling out these frauds.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive

Gotthardbahn, I wonder if you would find an article of this nature on CNN.com I doubt it. I certainly undertand and appricate your frustrations, I deal with the same issues daily. “Shock and awe” should refer to U.S Media.

Posted by J.R.Woods | Report as abusive

Greg, did you bother to ask gulf coast residents what they think of this catastrophe? You know the folks who are going to lose billions of dollars of business for the next 20 years. Would you buy a ocean front property in the region of the spill? or go on vacation to that part of the country? What about letting your kids swim in the area? or eat the seafood from that area? Petrochemical pollution will be in sea life from this spill for years to come and it will be wide spread (something called undersea currents will gauruntee that). I would suggest you look at the PCB data on fish in the United States to find a suitable corollary. In addition, I would also suggest you look at ecological studies of wetlands polluted by oil and other contaminates both here and elsewhere around the globe. It might shock you to discover that these ecosystem do not recover. Of course that would mean you have the brain cells to understand scientific concepts. Something your analysis suggests you lack.

Posted by BB1978 | Report as abusive

Notice all those Red state, anti-government politicians and businessmen have their hands out for tax dollars now. I’m tempted to tell them to secede.

Posted by vinlander | Report as abusive

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robby Grossman, DIY Canada and Best Authors 2010, Deborah Dolen. Deborah Dolen said: Gregg Easterbrook (Reuters) Found BP is still fighting fines from a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers! http://bit.ly/9oiEZE [...]

Easterbrook is playing both sides of the fence on one important issue: he says we pay too much attention to this because it’s so visual, but in his attempts to minimize the severity of the spill, he totally excludes all the damage that we don’t see. Um, there are extremely much more animals and life forms in that Gulf than what we see on the surface. They are dying. There will probably be some extinctions. That’s very bad, not only from an economic perspective, and the principle he refers to, that we can’t perfectly predict what the outcomes will be, is clearly a reason to be concerned, not lax. It is clearly a reason to try as hard as we can to AVOID spills like this, not excuse them.
So, in a political climate where many in power will try to weaken regulations and excuse BP’s behavior and very much make this kind of thing more and more likely, Easterbrook thinks we shouldn’t really get upset about this or try to learn a lesson and make a point about policy in the future? Really? Thank God for all the malcontents making a big deal of this and society’s other problems, otherwise the Pollyannas would keep us in the Dark Ages. Serious problems, disasters, huge losses DO happen, and those getting vocal and angry about this spill make it LESS likely to happen in the future.

Posted by dvstllrd | Report as abusive

Great article. It is clear that most of the readers do not have the ability to think beyond what has been fed to them be the media. News Flash – This spill is terrible but not the end of the world. The DOwdropping 200 pts in one day is not an indication of the end of civilization. Obama did not cuase (and cannot fix) the oil spill.

Posted by DavidS95 | Report as abusive

OK I’ll grant you, Gregg, there’s a lot of things this spill isn’t. There’s also a lot of unhelpful reactions to it, least helpful of all being the corporatist toady “it’s orl roit really, happens all the time” ho-hum business as usual mucus, of which I’m seeing rather a lot being rasped up here. Which makes the spill considerably more annoying than it would be if it were just oil gushing.

You may be right in observing that humanity and Earth itself could probably learn to put up with the oil. No man worth his salt however numbly tolerates being lied to by incompetent white-collar excuse fabricators in whose hands everybody else’s fate rests. Of that, we’ve seen enough to last a lifetime.

We can all relate to a problem that needs to be fixed as long as everybody learns from it the things they really need to learn, and pays in suitable ways for the education obtained, accordingly. Indications are, certain people who need to learn the most from this are already gearing to learn (and pay) the least they can get away with. That lofty old business attitude is what has to become extinct for life on earth to prosper without major incident.

The prospect that whatever the outcome, this situation were doomed to result in more of the same old culprits going back to making bank with the same old devil-may-care mentality which entails reaping careless fortunes at the expense of all humankind and other species simply isn’t going to sit too well [pun, etc] too much longer before something more serious blows.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

They should throw the BP CEO into the ocean and have him clean up his mess

We just launched a competitor to Facebook. Check us out at http://Storyburn.com/

Posted by STORYBURNcom3 | Report as abusive

Mr. Woods: CNN is hopeless, beyond redemption. Reuters is guilty of persistent exaggeration as well, but nowhere on the scale of CNN, where everything is a ‘tragedy’ or a ‘disaster’ or ‘game-changing’. Give it a rest, fellas.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive

What would the Tea Party do if they were in charge?

What have the GOP leaders, who are continually re-elected by voters in the Gulf States, been doing with all the royalty money they collect from oil & gas companies for the privelege of drilling there? They should have a huge slush fund put aside to deal with emergencies. But NO. Instead, the GOP leasdership looks to the Feds to save them. The same thing would be true in Alaska. Ask Lisa Murkowski what type of emergency fund she has developed with all her roaylty money?

What a bunch of lying hypocrites. A death sentence for GOP incumbents is the only answer, and maybe brain transplants for the voters who keep electing these shills.

Posted by 5280hi | Report as abusive

The Valdez and Mt St Helen weren’t disasters because it took “only” a decade to return mostly to normal? And this spill isn’t a disaster because it’ll probably be mostly ok by 2020?

By that measure, Katrina wasn’t a disaster either, because New Orleans will be rebuilt by the 10 year marker.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

Is it bad? Yes. Is it Nashville flood bad? No. Coverage is poor because various groups, most notably political interests and media outlets, can use it as a tool.

@Drewbie: I hope New Orleans won’t be rebuilt by the decade mark. Granting building permits for unsafe land should not happen. Unless New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Army Corps of Engineers rework the river and Pontchartrain to be like the Rhine delta, the parish’s lowlands won’t be safe to build. (And no, a decade isn’t a long time.)

Posted by FranchiseMatt | Report as abusive

Was the spill a good thing? Probably not. Is it the end of the world? Well; if that is all it takes to end the world- AMF! The author is right on many points- actually ALL the points he makes. Alarmist, money grubbing parasites in New Orleans have garnered billions to their screeching, and they are slavering with anticipation at the next largesse they envision rolling in on the ne’er tides of stupidity and cupidity. Long-term effects? Not really very many as the Earth sheds “pollutants” several magnitudes greater in quantity every day into the oceans and atmosphere, seemingly unnoticed by the harpies in the media. As for those “dangerous” chemicals used to disperse the oil? They may indeed do more harm than good in that they deter the natural methods of dispersal/containment in nature. If anyone thinks that oil is completely trapped within the Earth’s rock formations, they need to some very simple research to find out differently. As for the toxicity of the “dangerous” chemicals used; again alarmist thinking and harpies. I handle those daily, without more than a very cursory protection level as they are hard of the skin to the extent that they dry it out, but so does Dawn dishwashing liquid. Below is a link to a map showing the plant where many of these “dangerous” chemicals are compounded. No high fences- no razor wire- nothing more than hairnets to prevent contamination- hardhats to protect head from injury in normal industrial environment.
http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?cp =42.383641%7c-87.900161&style=h&lvl=16&v =1

Posted by The_Ionian | Report as abusive

“This is like saying the Union Carbide chemical Spill in India wasn’t a big deal… Seriously cut the propaganda, we aren’t uneducated clods.”
murfster; The Bhopal, India UCCI explosion and aftermath is in no sane way comparable to this fiasco in the Gulf Of Mexico. There are too many points to go into in the forum available to you, but they are many and widely variant.
As for the “…uneducated clods” thing… Poorly and semi are two descriptors that come to mind.

Posted by The_Ionian | Report as abusive

As an American citizen (who lives 60 miles away from St. Helen’s I might add), I came on the British Reuters site to see what your country’s reaction was. If your article reflects public opinion, I will personally boycott all British products (I’m already boycotting BP).
BP has done nothing but lie and deceive the American public and also the world regarding what is actually happening down there. That live feed that you referred to was caught on to be a LOOPED video of the oil blowing out of that well.
After 30 years of offshore drilling, no one has thought of a back up plan for disaster like this. There are hundreds of rigs in the Gulf. What caused the explosion? You’ll love this Mr. Easterbrook: it was a dead battery that failed to trip the fail safe for the rig. The best option the BP could come up with: stuffing golf balls, tires and mud into the well with a top hat over it. They have stopped the process twice now, for over 12 hours each time and NOT notified anyone about it (hence the looped video feed).
CNN is the ONLY network in America that is trustworthy and actually trying to get any response from BP. They won’t give any information. We now have a nation of suspicious citizens because NO ONE will tell the truth. The leak has been going on for over a MONTH now. It is triple the size of the Valdez and is threatening to enter the Gulf Stream, leading to Europe.
So when you have oil washing up on your shores, maybe you’ll actually realize that this isn’t just effecting the U.S. Your country has a responsibility too. It’s your company.
P.S. You sound like Rush Limbaugh. So glad his propaganda has reached the U.K.! It’s just sickening to see such apathy.

Posted by ussocialist | Report as abusive

I read the first 3 paragraphs and that was enough. This guy is a fool and should lose his job for irresponsible journalism. He has never been to Mt St Helens in his life and thus begins his argument with claims that are entirely false. After the Mt St Helens eruption, the entire forest and ecosystem was annihilated. The State replanted half the forest, but only on one side of the road. The dead forest was left to demonstrate the destructive nature of the eruption, and also to show how long it takes to recover from something so terribly destructive. The writer of this article has probably never left a major city in his life and wouldn’t understand that the environment is not immune to our actions and natural disasters. So, in summation, I am very disappointed in this article, please remove this garbage it is an offense to journalism and the intelligence of the public.

Posted by pillowattack | Report as abusive

Check the following link, it was taken may 17, 2010 at Mt St Helens, 30 years after the eruption. Mind you, volcanic ash can be used as a fertilizer which can help promote regrowth, Oil doesn’t have the same beneficial qualities. As you can see, the regrowth at Mt St Helens has been slow where it has been left to its own devices.

Plant life will tend to grow slower due to altitude and temperature in a mountainous region, which has me hoping that the turnaround in Louisiana and other parts of the coastline.

Gregg, if you are reading this I hope you seriously consider your actions. You are a journalist, and this article was lazily written. If you don’t know what you are talking about RESEARCH. If you can’t be sure what is going on in the gulf, GO THERE AND INVESTIGATE. Accountability is the theme of this disaster, try some.

http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/env ironment/30-years-After-Deadly-Eruption- Mount-St-Helens-Flourishes-93945204.html

Posted by pillowattack | Report as abusive

A bit on the rash side, but we do need to give more credit to mother nature. We definitely need to analyze policies, particularly those made in the heat of disaster. The goal is to minimize impact at minimal cost to the public as possible, and hold those accountable. No doubt that the cost must be incurred by BP. And we-you and I-must work to keep politics out of it! Except for the role of management and oversight, we must call out politicians who attempt to use the situation for political purposes. Easterbrook has at least attempted this here.

Posted by RPiper | Report as abusive

[...] situation is terrible, but, as Gregg Esterbrook said well at Reuters, it is not the end of the world.  There’s plenty of blame to go around for the environmental disaster in the Gulf; E.J. [...]

Well let’s see I stopped @ a BP and filled up today, they’re still doing ok I guess, would Mobil or any other oil conglomerate do any better? Don’t know. I suspect not. So stop driving YOUR car, stop driving to YOUR job, stop going to the grocery store to buy YOUR food instead of letting someone else grow YOUR food using diesel fuel distilled @ who knows where…or quit whining and sniveling about something YOU think YOU have the answer to and maybe vote right next time? Or maybe, engineer something to fix the mess!

Posted by frodomocho | Report as abusive

Nice to see a little perspective on the net for a change ..

Posted by Wicki | Report as abusive

@ussocialist
You do realize ussocialist that this guy is Amrican, borne in Buffalo USA and not A British citezen lol..

Posted by Wicki | Report as abusive

It’s always nice to have a clown like Easterbrook around. His kind of silliness helps us feel better about caring less.

Posted by scrumble | Report as abusive

This guy is essentially saying it is no big deal and it is rectifiable. I went to New Orleans to help with mortgage endorsments on claims checks. I toured 9th Ward, Chalmette, St Bernard Parrish and many other places//these people got the shaft and yes, the area was flooded, damaged beyond anything I had seen in rural/urban areas. Of course they took what was allotted. Now this. The Gulf could mean the Mississippi, the way this “boot” is, this oil will become a permanant addition to the entire ecosystem…even urban areas. Oh and the disbursents. Yes, the chemicals with unknown long term side effects. We know they won’t plug the well because then they loose the well. That is the reason it is still flowing. BP will pay for this. In time, situations unassuming people are put in not by choice will even out and the persons responsible will pay. I have boycotted arco ampm castrol, will boycott shareholders as well. The young people are pissed off. This is also a place you leave to us when we are in our golden years. Mr. Easterbrook thinks he is solution minded, perhaps a progressive however he is just dull, defensive and perhaps has the mentality on mother earth that is the wrong mentality…oh yea, a fifth of the worlds species were and are giving birth in this area, the worlds last deep coral reef and the historical florida keys..yea…mother earth will bounch right back. Did anyone follow if the Chinese tanker spill in Australia s crral reefs leaved just eough massive amounts of oil to allow earth to “bounce back”? Just seems like truly stupid logic.

Posted by elann | Report as abusive

to elaborate further on my previous post, there are large numbers of people in California who would like to protest what is happening to the Gulf. Everynight we watch the sun set on the Pacific and see at least eight drilling rigs and we fester with rage over what in going on there…

Posted by elann | Report as abusive

Is your head full of crude?

http://twitter.com/ISawYouInADream

Posted by Spincraft | Report as abusive

International Bankers And Politicians: Like Spiders Spinning Cocoons Around Your Kids…

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