It’s looking much more likely that the oil spill from a BP well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico will have political ramifications in the U.S.
The situation in the Gulf deteriorated again as the U.S. Coastguard revealed that oil is gushing from the damaged well five times faster than previously thought. A change in prevailing winds means the growing oil slick is likely to reach land on Friday, despite BP’s massive efforts to contain it.
It looks increasingly likely that the only way BP can shut down the leak is by drilling a second well, a process that could take two to three months.
The initial explosion occurred during a standard operation aboard one of the world’s most technologically advanced drilling rigs operated by a company with a first class reputation for deepwater drilling. The rig, Deepwater Horizon, had passed several recent safety inspections with flying colors and in 2009 won a Safety Award For Excellence from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Mineral Management Service.
The response to the subsequent oil spill has also been exemplary. “Our approach is to massively over-respond,” said BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward. The company is spending $6 million a day deploying 32 ships and 5 aircraft to skim off the thickest parts of the oil slick and spray dispersant chemicals over the less affected areas. It rapidly deployed two rigs to drill $100 million relief wells that will stem the flow of oil.
It would perhaps be more reassuring if this looming environmental disaster was the product of obvious corporate malfeasance. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. The real story is that despite the best efforts of some seasoned and professional operators with huge resources at their disposal, the oil slick washes steadily closer to the shore.
“If the oil reaches the shore it will kill all the shrimp, all the crabs and all the oysters,” said Kim Vo, owner of the largest shrimp distributor in Venice, Sharkco Seafoods International.
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