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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs