Scientist demands end to America’s ‘addiction to oil’

A scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, Doug Inkley, has criticised what he described as America’s “addiction to oil”. Inkley stated it is ultimately responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster earlier this year.

Inkley commented on the incident, six months after the explosion which killed eleven rig workers and resulted in over 170 million gallons of crude oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico causing damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries.

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist working for the National Wildlife Federation, said that America's "addiction to oil" was responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster six months ago. Image: Flcelloguy.

Inkley is a senior scientist working for the National Wildlife Federation. He stated, “Looking back at what we knew six months after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska illustrates the danger of too quickly drawing conclusions about the full impacts of the Gulf oil disaster.”

“Six months after the Exxon Valdez disaster,” he continued, “the herring stocks in Prince William Sound seemed like they’d pull through. It wasn’t until the fourth year after the disaster that herring stocks collapsed due to a delayed population effect of the oil, devastating the people and wildlife that depended on them. Today, more than two decades later, this once-vital fish still hasn’t recovered.”

His remarks echo those issued by another environmental organisation in July. Greenpeace demanded that BP, who the United States Congress has blamed for the disaster, take a “new direction” and end an “obsession with high risk, environmentally reckless sources of oil.”

A spokesperson for Greenpeace said: “The moment has come for BP to move beyond oil. Under Tony Hayward the company went backwards, squeezing the last drops of oil from places like the Gulf of Mexico, the tar sands of Canada and even the fragile Arctic wilderness … The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now.” Statistics show that the United States is by far the largest consumer of oil, using 20,680,000 barrels every day. Its closest rival, China, consumes only 7,578,000 barrels per day.

Inkley said that incidents in the past had shown that there can be far-reaching effects. “The Exxon Valdez disaster was not simply one ecosystem earthquake – the aftershocks have continued to this day,” he said, citing the 1989 disaster which occured when an oil tanker ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska.

“What tremors are still to come in the Gulf? The aftershocks of the Gulf oil disaster will continue to cast a long shadow of uncertainty on the Gulf ecosystem and the livelihoods of those who depend upon it for years to come,” said Inkley. ‘As I look back on my days in Louisiana’s wetlands wading through thick black oil in prime pelican habitat, I continue to wonder: How long must we wait for lawmakers to act to prevent future disasters? How many more lives, livelihoods and animals must be claimed by our addiction to oil?”

After 100 days, Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to threaten Gulf coast

Wednesday marked the 100th day since the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and although the leaking well was recently capped, the estimated three million or more barrels of oil already in the Gulf of Mexico are still causing trouble for many residents of the Gulf coast.

Several workers wash a pelican caught in the spill Image: International Bird Rescue Research Center.

There are still many unanswered questions about the long-term impact of the spill, including how it has affected the environment and natural habitats of the Gulf as well as whether residents of the area will be able to return to their jobs and livelihoods now that the leak has been capped. US government officials say that, even after the oil well is permanently sealed, workers will still have a lot to do, including the removal of around 20 million feet (6.1 million metres) of containment boom. “I would characterize this as the first 100 days. There’s a lot of work in front of us,” said Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft of the US Coast Guard.

Authorities will use submarines to assess damage underwater, while teams on the ground assess the shoreline. While removing oil from beaches is expected to be fairly straightforward, cleaning the marshlands will be particularly difficult, as boats are needed to maneuver through small channels and workers are unable to stand on solid ground. At least 638 miles (1,027 kilometres) of the Gulf coast have been hit by the oil.

Development Driller II digs a relief well in order to permanently close the leaking well. Image: Barry Bena/US Coast Guard.

The government is focusing on both cleaning sensitive coastal regions and looking for underwater oil plumes, but is also probing into what may have been the largest accidental oil spill. The US Justice Department, as well as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, are all investigating what contributed to the disaster. The Washington Post reported one team is looking into whether a close relationship between BP and government regulators played a role in the spill. The Post also said that Deepwater Horizon operator Transocean as well as oil services group Halliburton were being investigated.

NASA photo of Deepwater oil slick

BP officials say that they will try to perform the “static kill” process on Monday, a process which involves pumping a thick mixture of mud and cement down into the cap currently stopping the leak. At the end of next week, a relief well currently being dug should reach the leaking well, and officials will then know if the static kill has worked. It is hoped that this “bottom kill” operation will be able to permanently seal the damaged well.

Even though BP is close to sealing the oil reservoir, it still faces legal battles, economic struggles, and internal changes. On Tuesday, British Petroleum (BP) announced that Tony Hayward would step down from his position as the company’s chief executive. His replacement, American Bob Dudley, will be the first non-British CEO of the company.

On Thursday, lawyers met at Boise, Idaho hearing to determine how around 200 various lawsuits against BP will play out. Depending on whether the suits can be consolidated, BP could be facing years of legal disputes. BP, Transocean, and Halliburton had already blamed each other for the disaster during a May hearing before the US Senate. Federal regulatory officials were criticized for allegedly taking bribes and not thoroughly inspecting the oil rig.

The company also reported a quarterly loss of US$16.9 billion and said it has allocated US$32.2 billion to pay for the spill. BP has a US$20 billion fund to help make up for the massive losses of the Gulf fishing, oil, and tourism industries and will pay damages for each of the millions of barrels of oil lost in the disaster.

BP says that it is the “responsible party” for cleaning up the spill because it owned the leaking well and had leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, but claims that it is not responsible for the entire spill.

BP CEO Tony Hayward to resign, say analysts

BP Chief Executive Anthony Bryan “Tony” Hayward is negotiating the terms of his departure and will stand down from the company; effectively taking responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to journalists. The New York Times cites an anonymous source “close to the board”, and the BBC’s business editor makes a similar analysis. It is expected that President and CEO of the company’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization Bob Dudley, a Mississippi native, member of the Board of Directors, and most senior American executive of BP, will replace Tony Hayward as Chief Executive.

Tony Hayward, CEO, BP. Image: World Economic Forum.

A report by the BBC World Service said a BP press release asserted that, “[Hayward] has the full confidence of the Board.” The resignation, and change of leadership, at the multinational UK-based oil firm is expected to be discussed by the company’s Board of Directors on Monday; potentially being ratified as early as Tuesday.

Hayward’s position was, essentially, undercut when United States President Barack Obama said he “would have fired him.”

BP reports progress in oil spill cleanup

BP reported Tuesday that it captured nearly 25,000 barrels of crude oil on Monday from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The energy company also reported that a third of the oil captured was subsequently burned off. This indicates that the oil spill recovery operations may have begun to stabilize, even as strong storms threaten to hinder efforts.

As of July 5, BP has collected about 657,300 barrels of oil. As recovery efforts progress, responders hope to increase these efforts by bringing in additional ships to raise the average oil capture rate to 53,000 barrels per day. However, this latest effort was delayed by the recent Hurricane Alex, bringing operations to a halt for three days.

BP plans to expand its containment capacity and flexibility, which is anticipated to occur during mid to late July. It is planned that several oil containment systems will be deployed; however, the efficiency of these systems cannot be guaranteed, as they have not been tested in the conditions they are expected to operate in. Work on the first two relief wells, which began in May, continues and is expected to take a total of about three months.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the worst offshore oil spill in United States history, and BP reports that recovery operations thus far have amounted to a total of about US$3.12 billion. The spill began in April when a drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded and subsequently sank, killing eleven.

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