Here’s your 30-second wrap of the first congressional hearing on the BP Gulf oil disaster:

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hauled in executives from BP America, which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig; Transocean, which owned the rig; and America’s favorite, Halliburton, which laid cement for the rig.

Executives from the three companies — shockingly — blamed each other for the ongoing disaster. BP America’s Lamar McKay focused on Transocean’s failed blowout preventer. Transocean’s Steven Newman talked about the failed Halliburton cement. Halliburton’s Tim Probert said a drilling contractor misused a cement plug (it’s unclear if he was blaming BP or Transocean, but it definitely wasn’t Halliburton’s fault!).

BP’s McKay complained that nobody talks about all the times they didn’t ruin the Gulf of Mexico: “Our safety record in the Gulf of Mexico has been very good prior to this incident.”

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Pretty absurd, tedious stuff, unless you’re a connoisseur of corporate responsibility-dodging. For a better big-picture perspective, check out this L.A. Times editorial:

Coal and oil have more in common than a tendency to produce explosions when mistakes are made in the extraction process. Together, they account for the main reason the Earth’s climate is gradually changing. The deaths of 29 mine workers and 11 oil workers were tragic, and the economic consequences of the oil spill to the gulf’s fishing and tourism industries could be devastating, but they’re dwarfed by the deaths and financial losses that will come with global warming.

Climate change is a little like weight loss: When you’re on a diet, it’s hard to see the fat melting away day to day, but compare photos of yourself before and after losing 20 pounds and the difference is dramatic. Our political system functions well when it’s reacting to a discrete disaster such as a mine explosion, but a slow-motion catastrophe such as climate change doesn’t spur the same outrage because most people don’t see it happening until long after the damage is done. [Emphasis mine.]


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