Latest Gulf oil well explosion was no disaster, but what does it say about offshore drilling?
If we hadn’t spent the summer watching crude gush into the Gulf, no one outside the industry would have noticed or cared much about Thursday’s explosion on a Mariner Energy oil platform. No serious injuries, no spreading slick.
But everyone did notice, and it reminded us that no matter how much BP and the rest of Big Oil say they’ve learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, offshore drilling remains a high-risk business, even in shallow water.
Plus, Tony Hayward had nothing to say: The fossil-fuel folks were quick to point out that yesterday’s accident had little in common with the BP debacle. But as David A. Fahrenthold and David S. Hilzenrath point out in The Washington Post, that made it even more noteworthy to offshore drilling critics. This wasn’t some cutting-edge venture where machinery was drilling a mile under the ocean; it was in relatively shallow water, and while the well was still in production, the drilling was finished. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune cut to the chase:
The oil industry continues to rail against regulation, but it’s become all too clear that the current approach to offshore drilling is simply too dangerous. We don’t need to put American workers and waters in harm’s way just so multinational oil companies can break more profit records.
Timing is everything: Wouldn’t you know it that just a day before the explosion, at a “Rally for Jobs” event in Houston sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, Barbara Hagood, a Mariner Energy exec, moaned about the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf:
I have been in the oil and gas industry for 40 years, and this administration is trying to break us. The moratorium they imposed is going to be a financial disaster for the Gulf Coast, Gulf Coast employees, and Gulf Coast residents.
While not in the same league as BP as a safety ne’er-do-well, Mariner has been more Homer Simpson than Ned Flanders. According to The Houston Chronicle, the company has been involved in at least 13 offshore accidents since 2006 in the Gulf — including a blowout and four fires.
Language barrier: BP, meanwhile, is sharing its concern that it may not be able to spend as much money on restoring the Gulf and its economy as it previously said it would. The reason? Language in a drilling overhaul bill passed by the House this summer that it contends would hamper its business. Clifford Krauss and John M. Broder of The New York Times explain:
The bill includes an amendment that would bar any company from receiving permits to drill on the Outer Continental Shelf if more than 10 fatalities had occurred at its offshore or onshore facilities. It would also bar permits if the company had been penalized with fines of $10 million or more under the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts within a seven-year period. While BP is not mentioned by name in the legislation, it is the only company that currently meets that description.
BP also announced that it has now spent $8 billion in dealing with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and its consequences. About $93 million of that went toward ads on TV, radio, and in newspapers from April through July. All those images of BP employees vowing to “make things right” appear to be working. An Associated Press poll found that 33 percent of the people surveyed in August approved of the job BP was doing — more than double the number who felt that way in June.
You’re not the boss of me: If the comments of one of China’s top climate spokespeople is any indication, don’t expect that country to take the lead in slashing energy consumption. Yu Qingtai, who represented China in climate talks from 2007 to 2009 and is now his country’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, had this to say in a recent speech:
As a Chinese person, I cannot accept someone from a developed nation having more right than me to consume energy. We are all created equal — this is no empty slogan. The Americans have no right to tell the Chinese that they can only consume 20 percent as much energy. We do not want to pollute as they did, but we have the right to pursue a better life. The public relations efforts of developed nations on climate change are always more effective than ours, but it is more important to look at their actual actions. Overall, when you look at the facts, there is a huge difference between what is said and what is done.
The road to madness: Remember that hideous traffic jam in China that lasted nine days? Well, it’s back. The replay’s only a few days old, but it’s already stretching 75 miles again. And also again, the cause is road construction and the huge number trucks hauling coal to Beijing from mines in Inner Mongolia.
California reamin’: The race for California senator between incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer and her Republican challenger Carly Fiorina is heating up. But when it comes to green issues, it’s Fiorina, not Boxer, who’s doing the bobbing and weaving. During a recent debate, she refused to say if she believed global warming is real. Instead, Fiorina offered up the lame comment, “We should always have the courage to examine the science.” When she also declined to take a stand on Prop. 23, which would suspend California’s landmark climate law, Boxer pounced:
If you can’t take a stand on Prop. 23, I don’t know what you will take a stand on. If we overturn California’s clean energy policies, that’s going to mean that China takes the lead away from us with solar, that Germany takes the lead away from us with wind, but I guess my opponent is kind of used to creating jobs in China and other places. I want those jobs created here in America.
Well, that didn’t take long: The more rabid of climate-change deniers have seized upon the revelation that James Lee, the madman shot by police after he grabbed three hostages in Discovery’s headquarters, was moved to environmental fanaticism in part by watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Matt Drudge has piled on, as have others in the right-wing blogosphere, laying blame on Gore himself. Under the headline “Stop the Hysteria,” here’s Thomas Fuller on the climate-change-denial site wattsupwiththat:
At what point will we call to account those who have preached ‘the end of the earth as we know it’ to countless people? How many people will be driven to desperation by those who distort the science?
Blizzard of lies: OK, one last run at all the woofin’ last winter by Foxcateers Limbaugh, Beck, and Han
nity when they mocked global warming during the double dose of blizzards in Washington. New research suggests that the intense snowfalls were caused by a rare, once-in-a-century collision of two weather systems. You could explain what happened — that a climatic phenomenon called a North Atlantic Oscillation entered a “strongly negative phase” and that brought cold air down from the Arctic to the East Coast where it rammed into air full of moisture from El Niño.
Or you could just play Whack-a-Gore.