BP fails to stop oil spill

Jeremy Hance
May 30, 2010

BP has failed to stop oil gushing from over a mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill, which has been confirmed as the worst in American history, has spread between 504,000 to 798,000 gallons of crude oil per day into one of America's most important marine ecosystems.

BP abandoned its efforts at a 'top kill' plan to plug the spill—which involved putting heavy mud into the leak to reduce pressure before a capping it—after government officials and scientists, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu, told BP that they believed the 'top kill' procedure could only worsen the situation. BP will move on to its next attempt to stop the gushing oil: employing robots to cut the leaking pipe and then pumping the oil onto ships waiting at the surface, a procedure that experts say is especially risky. If it goes wrong it could dramatically increase the flow of oil.

Government officials have begun warning today that in a worst case scenario the hole could keep gushing until August when relief wells will be ready. The US federal government has no expertise or equipment for stopping an oil spill and so is entirely dependent on BP for containment. Although, some have called for the government to put the military in charge; the military has admitted it doesn't have the technical expertise either in this matter.

Initially, estimates of the oil spill from BP and the government were around 5,000 barrels a day; however, the government has now confirmed that those estimates were low. New official estimates put the level of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil every day.

White House Energy Czar, Carol Browner, today labeled the oil spill "probably the biggest environmental disaster we have ever faced". Despite this the government has continued to approve several new offshore drilling permits during the past month. Then, as of last week, President Obama announced a six month moratorium on new deepwater drilling sites.

The spill began 41 days ago when a BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Killing eleven workers, the explosion also left oil leaking from a drill hole over a mile below the surface. Reaching fragile Louisiana wetlands, residents fear it will destroy beloved ecosystems, devastate important fishing areas, and bring tourism to a standstill.

The US is the world's biggest consumer of oil. In 2007 the US consumed over 20 million barrels of oil every day: nearly three times as much as the number two consumer in the world, China.

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(05/04/2010) America, we deserve the oil spill now threatening the beautiful coast of Louisiana. This disaster is not natural, like the earthquake that devastated Haiti or tsunami that swept Southeast Asia in 2006; this disaster is man-made, American-made in fact, pure and simple. So, while in the upcoming weeks and months—if things go poorly—we may decry the oil-drenched wildlife, the economic loss for the region, the spoiled beeches, the wrecked ecosystems, the massive disaster that could take decades if not longer to recover from, we, as Americans, cannot think smugly that we are somehow innocent of what has happened. You play with fire: you will get burned. You drill for oil 1,500 meters below the surface of the ocean, you open up oil holes across the surface of your supposedly-beloved landscape, sooner or later there will be a spill, and sometimes that spill will be catastrophic.

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (May 30, 2010).

BP fails to stop oil spill .