Saturday, May 29, 2010

BP Another Warning

Like the mining accident that nearly everyone forgot about, the BP oil leak in the Gulf provides further proof that businesses cannot be expected to police themselves. Corporate citizenship, if it ever existed as an ideal, is now a thing of the past. We need untainted government oversight that has been lacking from the Mineral Management Agency. Corporations do what they can to maximize profit and they will do so whether that is in our best interests or not. Remember this incident, like the tragic mining accidents we hear about every two or three years, and the stock market collapse on Wall Street when Republicans and conservatives in general talk about small government and eliminating red tape. Some of those regulations which the Republicans dismiss as socialist "big brother" programs are designed to protect us from corporate malfeasance.

BP's "top kill" plan has apparently failed so it will now install a cap container to minimize (and not stop) oil seepage until liquids and cement can be poured into the relief wells now under construction. Relief wells have worked in the past but it will take months (August at the earliest) before the they can be utilized.

When this crisis first began, some conservatives tried to minimize the risks associated with off shore drilling by noting that such accidents rarely occur. The devastation that we are face in the Gulf reminds us, however, of what we face if and when that rare accident occurs. The fishermen in Louisiana have lost their livelihood. The entire ecosystem, including the Everglades in Florida, is at risk. Tourism in the Gulf region will go down and no one yet knows how this will affect the restaurant industry, particularly that segment which specializes in providing seafood.

At a minimum, companies which seek to drill oil in the industry should be expected to build relief wells before they begin their drilling so that these spills can be contained within a matter of hours (or worst days) and not months or weeks. The president said he is extending the moratorium on permits to drill new deep water wells for more than six months.

At this point the president should go much further. Since any and every oil spill can affect the nation's economy and ecosystem as a whole the president should instruct those who would like to acquire such permits to build relief wills before they can drill for oil and see what, if anything they can do to get those who currently operate oil rigs within our economic zone to build them as well. Those who seek to drill for oil should be required to have the means to avert and if need be, minimize the damage caused by accidents of their own making.

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