News / USA

Gulf Oil Spill Puts Critical Spotlight on Industry

The ongoing oil spill from a sunken rig operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico has put a harsh spotlight on the oil and gas industry.  The accident has sparked renewed calls for stronger government regulation of energy operations.  The industry continues to have support from both politicians and the general public.

The ongoing oil spill and the threat it poses to both the ecology and the economies of coastal states could represent, at the very least, a giant public relations problem for the oil and gas industry.  The Obama administration has halted plans to develop new leases in some Gulf and Atlantic coast areas that have been off limits to energy development and some members of Congress are recommending much more stringent regulation of offshore drilling.

But Sara Banaszak, senior economist with the American Petroleum Institute, says public support for the industry remains strong.

"In more than one poll that has been conducted nationwide since this incident has occurred, the majority of Americans do still support increased production of oil and gas from offshore," she said.

That is because, she says, most people, and many politicians, while horrified by the images of oil spilling out over Gulf waters, continue to see economic benefits for the country from producing energy from domestic resources.

"Not only do we export dollars when we purchase oil and import it, but we export jobs.  So, if we keep economic activity in this country, if we choose to produce the oil and gas we consume in this country, there is a huge economic benefit from having that activity take place here, in terms of jobs," said Banaszak.  "It is not just the person working on the drilling rig, but there is an incredible multiplying effect for the economy," she added.

But Ken Medlock, an energy expert at the Baker Institute at Rice University here in Houston, says it is probably too early to say what reaction the oil spill will have on public opinion or policy.  He says even here in the Gulf coast region, people are torn by their environmental and economic interests.

"I remember as a child going and playing in the areas that are potentially going to be affected and to think that that is all going to change more or less overnight is a little bit more than upsetting," said Medlock.  "But, at the same time, we have to understand that, while this is an emotional issue, we rely very heavily on the resources that are developed in the region and we need to really understand what has happened before we have any knee-jerk [spontaneous] policy reactions," he said.

Medlock says BP is not alone in its struggle with the leaking well; other companies have been offering assistance, both technically and materially. He says everyone in the industry understands that this is a problem not just for one company, but for all of them.

"It is interesting how quiet the industry has been in terms of any critical thinking on the issue, not just with regard to the blowout itself, but also with regard to how BP is handling it, because, I think, at the end of the day, what everyone is waiting for is the result of an investigation, [to know] what actually happened, because it is hard to be critical until we actually know," said Medlock.

The BP spill continues to pump about 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf and company officials are working on a number of plans to stop it.  Ken Medlock says some guide to how bad it could get is provided by the last big rig explosion in the Gulf.  It happened in June of 1979 and involved the Ixtoc rig operated by Mexico's government-owned oil company, PEMEX.

"Oil was actually was pouring from a marine riser, it was under water, much like this one, for nine months at a rate of 30,000 barrels a day and it eventually slowed to about 10,000 barrels a day and oil eventually reached up to about 150 miles [240 kilometers] of the south Texas coast," he said.  "That is probably the closest example to what is going on right now, that we can look at, and hopefully this does not get that bad," Medlock said.

The Ixtoc disaster lasted nearly 10 months and put more than 3 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  While there was damage to coastal areas in both Mexico and the United States, those areas eventually recovered.  The state of Texas asked Mexico for compensation, but none was ever provided.

But BP is not a national oil company; it is a private, multi-national company.  It is likely to be liable for billions of dollars in damages, and legal cases stemming from this spill may take decades to fully resolve.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs