13 June, 2010

Deep Horizon: the blame must be shared.

Back in February 2010, Watching the Law took a look at The Falkland Islands and what, from the public perception in the UK, looked like American support for Argentina in its claim that it has sovereignty over those islands.  Underlying this stance (and probably much of American foreign policy) appears to be the insatiable demand in the USA for oil and comparatively cheap fuel - petrol is currently retailing on American forecourts at around 2.75 to 3 dollars per gallon.  The USA uses over 400 million gallons of petrol per day.

In his First State of the Union Address, Barack Obama referred to the need to open new offshore areas for oil and gas development.   This strategy is also aimed at reducing America's dependence on imported oil.  To that end, some 167 million acres of ocean along the Atlantic coast together with areas in the Gulf of Mexico and areas to the north of Alaska were to be the subject of drilling concessions.  This Environmental blog appears to cover this strategy very well.  Much of the plan was opposed by environmentalists - see The Guardian 31st March 2010 and The Daily Mail 31st March 2010.

Drilling in deep water is a difficult, highly technical and risk-ridden enterprise.    BP is one company which engages in this work and its operations necessarily use many sub-contractors.   Following the Deep Horizon oil rig explosion on 20th April 2010, President Obama has engaged in massively damaging rhetoric against BP.  This was clearly aimed at Obama trying to maintain political credibility in the USA. and to divert attention from any role played by his own administration.

It is relevant to ask whether, amongst others, the USA government properly addressed the risks involved in drilling of this type.  In a balanced article, The Independent 13th June 2010, concludes that they are far from free of blame.  This must be correct and, as in many things, the legal blame should fall across several bodies involved such as the US Department of the Interior.  More can be read at Institute for Catastrophic Risk Management

See the BP website for further information about Deep Horizon.  Meanwhile, Obama has returned to a moratorium on further drilling - The Guardian 28th May.  How long that will last is a moot point but it seems likely that it will end sooner rather than later and that politicians will be at pains to inform the public that the risks have been addressed and are now manageable.


See US Congress - House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce 10th May. Much of the detail of what occurred can be read in this document.

See White House - discussion between President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron.

Guardian - "Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill" - access to articles etc. relating to Deep Horizon.

Addendum: - 16th June 2010:  Obama addressed the USA on the crisis and vowed to make BP pay for it - see Telegraph 16th June.

Addendum - 17th June 2010:  BP Executives met with Obama on 16th June and BP agreed to put money into a fund.  Dividends will not be paid to shareholders this year - see The Guardian.   The Telegraph looked at how BP attempted to spread blame for this event.  The Daily Mail took a look at the many companies actually involved including the American Giant Halliburton which had responsibilities for the cement plug.

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