Socialist Worker

Pressure ratchets up on BP over oil disaster

The Deepwater Horizon disaster has thrown the oil giant BP and Barack Obama’s government into crisis, writes Simon Basketter

Issue No. 2206

The Tory press leapt to the defence of BP last week after US president Barack Obama denounced the firm’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

They claimed that it was in British national interests to back the oil multinational, as large amounts of British pension funds are invested in the company.

These will be affected by the firm’s share values, which have tumbled in recent weeks as the oil disaster has continued.

In reality the threat to pension funds is minimal. British pension funds’ exposure to BP is about 1.5 percent of their total assets.

Joanne Segars, chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds, said, “The ability of pension funds to pay out pensions to today’s pensioners and tomorrow’s pensioners shouldn’t be affected by this crisis.”

More importantly, any risk there is is an indictment of the privatisation of our pensions.

Our standard of living in retirement has become reliant on the fluctuations of the market.

BP’s drive for profit caused the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on 20 April, killed 11 workers and sent tens of millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

The crisis is rocking the US and Obama’s administration.

BP should pay to clean up the disaster. But the US government’s attacks on the firm are an attempt to divert anger away from its handling of the chaos.

The US government has colluded with the oil industry over drilling operations in the gulf.


After the disaster, it handed whole sections of the US coastline to BP in the guise of getting it to clean up the oil. Journalists are barred from many of the worst affected areas.

In the early weeks of the catastrophe, BP said 1,000 barrels of oil were leaking from the well each day.

Then the oil giant went along with a government estimate of 5,000 barrels per day.

That too proved to be an understatement.

The government’s latest assessment is 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day, but the upper range could be as high as 80,000.

Meanwhile, BP claims it is siphoning off up to 15,000 barrels of oil daily. Its earliest estimates would mean that a total of around 2.2 million gallons of oil had entered gulf waters.

According to the new, upper-end calculation, that total could be as high as 110 million gallons.

The amount that the company will eventually have to fork out in civil penalties will be determined by how much oil they’ve dumped into the gulf.

BP is burning the oil it brings to the surface. Incredibly, in some cases it said it had too much—and so put it back into the sea.

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Tue 15 Jun 2010, 18:43 BST
Issue No. 2206
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