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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More