Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Spill and the Spin Both Make Me Mad!

Grams is obsessed with the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon.  Seriously, every time I sit down at my computer I pull up the video feed to see if anything looks different.  But I'm more than just obsessed, I'm mad.  I'm mad because I hate to be lied to and every time I hear someone from BP talking, I know I'm being lied to.   

Let me start by saying that I'm not an environmental activist of any sort.  I try to be responsible in small ways ... we use green bags for shopping ... we recycle ... we use refillable water bottles ... nothing crazy or hard, just responsible. 

We live in Corpus Christi. Texas which, while on the Gulf of Mexico, is well south of the area that is expected to feel any immediate impact of this spill.  We're not beach enthusiasts.  In fact, we haven't been to the beach in years.  It's a good 45 minute drive from where we live to Padre Island.  But I grew up here and as a teenager, we went to the beach often.  It was a favorite hangout and campsite for my friends and me.  The fact that my grandchildren may never enjoy the same kind of day at the same beach makes me mad.

The video of oil and gas gushing from the BP well just makes me feel sick.  I can't help but think that the millions of barrels gushing from that well are killing the Gulf of Mexico.  Even before I saw the first pictures of birds covered in oil, I thought about them.  I remember the videos from Alaska in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill.  I vaguely remember news reports that the impact of that spill lasted more than a decade. This is already more than twice as bad and that makes me mad. 

I think about the beautiful sea birds that will be covered in oil,  about the fish that will die, about the fishermen who have lost their livelihood, the tourism industry that will dry up, the marshlands where turtles and other sea animals won't spawn.  I have visions of coastlines lined with dead fish, birds, turtles and other sea life and it makes me mad.   

I'm also very afraid of what will happen when a hurricane moves into the Gulf of Mexico this summer.  It's inevitable that it will happen.  I don't have any expertise in either offshore drilling or hurricanes, but I keep thinking that the combination of oil in the water and a hurricane sounds bad to me.  I know that when a hurricane moves into the Gulf of Mexico we get flooding tides on Padre Island and into Corpus Christi Bay.  I can't see any way that oil in the water would be a good thing.  I actually heard someone on television who said that a hurricane would be a "good thing" because it would disperse the oil over a wider area.  Personally, I think that's crazy. 

I got this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I first heard the news about the explosion.  I've seen an offshore platform up close.  I had the opportunity to tour the Shenzi platform that was being built nearby in Ingleside shortly before it was deployed.  I know that when something explodes on a platform in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico there's no place to go except into the water.  I knew that lives had been lost long before the news reported those losses.

When BP initially reported that only a few thousand barrels per day were leaking, I knew it was spin.  When they said they would be able to control and contain the oil before it got to the shoreline, again, I knew it was spin.  I know it's their job to show BP in the best possible light.  It's what they get paid to do.  They're telling us what they think we want to hear and they're trying to put the best possible face on a bad situation.  There is no way in hell BP did not know how much oil was spilling from that well. In this case, they're not just spinning, they're lying. 

I've worked in situations that called for spin and I've watched some of the best "spin doctors" do their work.  I worked for our local United Way when their national president was convicted of embezzling and misappropriating donated funds.  And when our local United Way admitted Planned Parenthood for funding and the local Catholic diocese called for a boycott I watched the spin doctors do their jobs.  I even worked for a media spokesperson for a while.  I recognize spin when I see it and in the case of BP, this is definitely spin. 

The most encouraging thing I've heard about this spill was an anecdotal news story from FOX News about President Obama.  At a recent White House meeting he reportedly shouted "Just plug the damn hole!"  I'm happy to see that he's mad!  I agree with him.  It's time to get good and mad. 

I know that eventually they will find a way to stop this spill.  Unfortunately, it looks like it will be sometime in August after they drill a relief well.  By that time the damage will be so immense and so widespread that the impact will be felt way beyond the shores of Louisiana and for decades to come. 

I've lived in South Texas long enough to be well acquainted with the oil and gas industry.  I have several family members who work or have worked in the industry.  I've seen "gifts" change hands at every level of that industry.  So many things are done to "grease the wheels" that it's easy to understand how regulations get bypassed and rules get bent.  I was already mad about all of that before this disaster.  Every time the price of gasoline goes up at the pump, I think about expensive cowboy boots that salesmen give to customers and about vendors who are coerced into supporting favorite charities if they want to do business with refineries, and it makes me mad.  Those are only a couple of small examples of which I have personal knowledge to illustrate how business is routinely done in the oil and gas industry. 

I could not find an accurate count of the number of active platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, but the map I've included here will tell you it's more than a few.  I believe offshore drilling is a necessary evil.  Although I miss the pristine beaches I enjoyed as a child, I understand the need for sacrifices.  I was glad to hear that President Obama has suspended exploratory drilling at depths 500 feet and deeper and formed a new White House Commission to study the safety of deep-water drilling.  I hope something good can come from this disaster.  I hope the results will be better regulation, better oversight, and better enforcement in the future.  And I don't think any more deep-water drilling should be allowed until technology is developed that will deal with the problems and challenges presented by deep-water drilling.  They should have known how to handle a deep-water spill before they had one.  They didn't and that makes me mad.

And, one more thing, to the spokespersons for BP.  The oil you are spilling from the Deepwater Horizon is NOT a "natural disaster."  Please stop calling it that.  There's nothing natural about it ... it's your disaster and you better own it.

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