The Human Toll of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion

deepwater horizon fire photo by U.S. Coast Guard has an excellent photoessay documenting the experiences of the survivors and of some of the 11 killed in the April 20th explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which spawned the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Sixty days later, oil continues gushing from the ultra-deep well up to 6 miles beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

But what about the human toll? It’s not just the eleven lives lost in the tragedy and the many suffering as a result.

A huge portion of the Gulf Coast population is in some way connected to the oil industry as a way of life beyond the 20 percent working in the energy industry and those in the oyster and fishing industry affected by the spill. President Obama has called for an end to offshore oil exploration. But what are the alternatives? Many more jobs will be lost as a result of this disaster and the policies that result from it. It’s important that those distressed as a result receive adequate compensation. But it’s equally important that new jobs are created and that a culture that is very much rooted in the offshore oil industry is given the appropriate tools to transition into new ways of life. Where is the funding for clean energy plants and new, green construction in the Gulf? Where is the incentive for companies to establish themselves in the Gulf and commit to new projects that will lead to such employment?

As my dear friend Sloane reminded me yesterday: If you really want to know how the population is affected by the disaster, watch the local news.

Continue reading “The Human Toll of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion”

BP Has So Much Money to Lose. But Who Should Manage It?

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. – Jeff Phillips, Environmental Contaminants Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, rescues a Brown Pelican from the Barataria Bay in Grand Isle, La., June 4, 2010. State and federal wildlife services pulled approximately 60 Brown Pelicans, in the last two days, covered in oil from the Barataria Bay area. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ann Marie Gorden. Who do we trust when an exploitative company that makes more money than god claims to be fixing its mess, but is the king of an industry that has colluded with the government for years?

This seems to be one of the broadest and most frustrating takeaways of the crisis resulting from the ongoing Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill.

Under current law (Oil Pollution Act of 1990), a leaseholder for a deepwater port is liable for no more than $75 million per spill plus removal costs. Transocean, owner of the sunken drill ship, is liable for up to $350 million under the same law.

BP reported more than $6 BILLION in PROFIT for the first quarter 2010. That’s $60 million each day. Revenues from 2009 sales totaled $239 BILLION (about the same as Finland’s GDP). BP must pay.

But Obama and the government have only teased the idea of lifting the $75 million cap, much less seizing BP’s assets entirely.

BP claims to have already spent $1 billion on cleanup costs and small bundles of cash to the affected states. but BP itself estimates the total costs to be $6 billion. Then there are the mounting health concerns for humans and animals encountering the dispersants being used, as well as liability for obliterating the sea-based industries of the Gulf. Not to mention lawsuits already filed by the survivors and surviving families of the April 20 blast that led to the gusher. Credit Suisse recently estimated those costs at an additional $14 billion.

These numbers don’t mean very much. What matters is that some organization, public or private, must be left responsible for managing recovery funds. One that is independent of both BP and the U.S. Government. But who?

UPDATE: David Axelrod appeared on Meet the Press this morning and hinted at Obama leaning toward a fund managed by a third party. Another empty signal or the start of something? – Obama will demand BP establish escrow account to handle oil spill claims. Obama may ask for as much as $50 billion to start the fund when he addresses the nation Wednesday. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Photo via Deepwater Horizon Response‘s flickr (taken June 4, 2010, Jefferson Pa., Louisiana).

Are Americans Ready to Appropriate More Tax to Public Transportation?

My favorite thing about is the polls on the right side of the home page. I’ve referenced them several times on this blog.

A poll this weekend definitely signaled a sign-of-the-times sea change in public opinion of your average visitor. Clearly influenced by the seemingly endless rise in prices at the pump, two-thirds of the 130,000 or so who answered the survey selected yes when asked if they’d support using more tax money to improve the public transit system. Note: it did say using more tax, not paying more tax, however, I believe that most people see the phrase “more tax” and think “outta my pockets.”

cnn poll public transportation tax

Here’s to hoping that this is a glimpse of a real sea change revealing a clear path for government to finally improve, build, and subsidize public transportation systems that could be critical to such vital assets as: our infrastructure; our expenses; our environment; our oil dependency; our local economies…

If the federal bias continues to be pro-war anti-infrastructure, there are several ways this can be dealt with on the state and local level.

Continue reading “Are Americans Ready to Appropriate More Tax to Public Transportation?”