Capping a Catastrophe

A week ago British Petroleum successfully recapped its oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico with test results suggesting that oil, for the time being, is confined. What is termed to be one of the worst environment disasters in history, the Gulf of Mexico bled for almost 3 months with crude gushing out at 60,000 barrels a day (7 million liters). Drawing parallels with the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the oil spill becomes yet another case of corporate negligence resulting in lack of safety procedures. BP is not only liable for loss of livelihood of those who depended on the gulf but also the debacle of a fragile marine ecosystem.
A general public furore over insufficient resolution and response caused an embarrassment to US administration and BP as the company’s stock went for a nosedive. They were further left red-faced as it emerged that scientists were paid hefty sums in exchange for their silence about the leak and photoshopped images of the oil spill surfaced.
Speaking in broader terms, this fiasco spells out a myriad of issues just waiting to be addressed, so it is safe to assume that it is markedly a turning point in global policy perspective. To begin with, Obama’s knee jerk response to the crisis was to simply demand massive compensation fund rather than mapping a contingency plan because the situation was ‘unprecedented’. The fact that laws and regulations regarding resource management could not deal with the calamity, only reflects the irresponsibility of leaders.
Another raging debate is whether to ban off-shore drilling all together. However, oil corporations would get further pushed into unchartered areas for drilling like the Arctic and New Zealand where extraction would merely increase chances of another oil spill, another mishap. Besides, BP in the past has paid lobbyists $340m to continue drilling on US coasts. What it brings to light here is the fact that if a principled Government (where society is chosen over corporate giants) is willing to impose sanctions on such firms and keep proper constitutional protection in place, it will be a more effective part of the solution.
Obama admittedly charged BP with ecological damage but the compensation was insignificant compared to their tremendous profits. The key would be to prosecute company executives for negligence and crime against the environment. The US administration is in a much stronger position to go up against an international multinational which is a fairly optimistic sign.
Finally, a lesson for BP would be to balance technology, complexity, and regulation. I hope it is safe to say we can now appreciate the enormity of the issue and we can work towards preventing the next disaster.



Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.


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