No magic solution for oil spill, elbowing BP won’t do any good
The message from the White House podium today was loud and clear — there is no magic fix for the oil spill that looks like curdled chocolate milk flowing on top of the Gulf of Mexico. And there isn’t much that anyone can do that BP isn’t doing.
Can government push BP out of the way if it believes the company is not doing the job?
“Well, to push BP out of the way would raise a question — to replace them with what?” Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, the administration’s response chief for the disaster, asked back.
Was there any thought given to bringing in another oil company to fix the mess?
“When I have the CEO of a large petroleum company and oil drilling company tell me they would be following the same sequence of events, that tells me there wouldn’t be anything to be gained by doing that,” Allen said at the White House press briefing. (He wouldn’t identify the company).
“And what they (BP) are doing is largely in line with industry standards. It’s just made immensely — exponentially more difficult at 5,000 feet,” Allen said.
“Given the operations as we understand them now and the lines of effort that are being accomplished by BP, there’s no reason to make a change,” he said, when pressed again.
“It is very difficult. It’s 5,000 feet below the surface, and it’s never been done before,” Allen said.
Some people are probably wondering why not ring up Exxon? They’ve got experience cleaning up oil spills. Well, my colleague who follows such issues points out that the Exxon Valdez spill was vastly different because it was a tanker, and oil was not spewing from 5,000 feet below the water surface.
(For comparison, the Empire State Building in New York is 1,250 feet tall, so that means the oil is gushing from a place that is the length of four Empire State Buildings below the surface.)
People have long memories and do mix up the spills.
“We may lose our pelicans as a result of Exxon — I’m sorry, not Exxon — BP. I get my feelings on oil companies kind of co-mingled,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a Senate floor speech castigating oil companies for spending little on safety and cleanup technology.
Photo credit: Reuters/Sean Gardner (ribbon of oil on surface of Gulf of Mexico)