Socialist Worker

BP exposed: 17 times more oil leaked in disaster than company claims

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2202

There could be as 17 times more oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico than either BP or the US government admit.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on 20 April, killing 11 workers and beginning an environmental catastrophe.

Independent scientists believe 70,000 barrels of oil or more could be leaking out each day.

That would mean over 90 million gallons of oil have spurted into the sea since the accident. In comparison the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spilled about 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska in 1989.

BP insists that no more than 5,000 barrels a day are gushing from the broken well—after having said for two weeks that it was “only” 1,000.

BP has managed to thread a mile-long tube into the broken remnants of the oil pipe on the ocean floor. Using the tube, the company has been able to siphon about 1,000 barrels of oil a day to a ship.

This won’t do anything to close the well. The most viable way to do that is to build a relief well, but that will take months to complete.

A group of scientists who spent two weeks exploring the spill area in a research ship reported that they found massive plumes of oil spreading beneath the surface of the water.

This is, in part, caused by the attempts to clean up the mess.

At the moment, oil company crews are injecting the slick on the surface with dispersant—chemicals designed to break up the oil.

This can do more harm than good. It masks the extent of the catastrophe and breaks the oil up into smaller parcels that will be harder to clean up.

What’s more, the dispersant increases the formation of tar balls—globs of heavy, black oil that sink to the seafloor to be carried to shore on currents and tides for decades to come.

BP is using its own brand of dispersant—Corexit—even though scientists say other dispersants are less toxic and more suitable.

Corexit is made up of active ingredients, which reduce fertility in animals.


“We don’t have any data or evidence behind the use of these chemicals in the water,” said Alan Levine, head of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals.

“We’re now basically using one of the richest ecosystems in the world as a laboratory.”

US president Barack Obama has criticised BP, Halliburton and Transocean for their roles in the Gulf disaster.

He has promised to end the government’s “cosy” relationship with the oil industry.

But Obama is in hock to the this industry.

In 2009 BP spent nearly $16 million on lobbying the US government.

The federal agency for regulating oil-drilling operations, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), remains nothing more than the tool of the oil companies.

The Center for Biological Diversity points out that the MMS had approved 27 new offshore projects after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Twenty six were exempt from environmental review—as was the “disastrous BP drilling” that is polluting the Gulf of Mexico.

Pursuit of profit caused the disaster. Pursuit of profit is preventing it from being cleaned up. Pursuit of profit makes it likely to happen again.

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Tue 18 May 2010, 17:44 BST
Issue No. 2202
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