The Ecologist

 

We're all responsible for BP's oil spill disaster

Dan Box

10th May, 2010

Filled up your car recently? Bought new bike tyres? Popped any pills? Then you're in part responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill...

Enter BP’s stately headquarters at 1 St James’s Square in London and the receptionist hands you a health and safety leaflet. On it, in bold, are the words: 'No accidents, no harm to people, no damage to the environment'.

Your first reaction is a smiling disbelief. This is the company currently battling with a broken deep-water well spewing about 210,000 gallons of crude a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

Then you realise they mean it. Deep-water drilling is a risky business and BP doesn’t take these risks for fun. The company has seen $25 billion wiped off its share price, is facing a wild range of other hits for clean-up, compensation and damage to reputation estimated at $23bn and an increasingly narked US president who has just suspended all new offshore drilling in his country’s waters.

For BP, accidents are too expensive. The company would far rather be drilling for relatively risk-free, easily accessible oil, like it used to. The problem is that it’s all gone, so BP must look again at smaller, deeper, underwater oil fields that are far harder to get at. With extra difficulty comes extra risk and, if we are honest, we laud them for this with our wallets, because wherever the oil comes from, people at the petrol pump keep calling for more. Oh, and guess which US politician has taken the most money from BP over the past 20 years? You got it...

Yes, BP and others have made mistakes, possibly some have done things they knew they shouldn’t, but mistakes happen when you are playing a risky game. It is unfair to blame our oil companies alone for the risks we have encouraged them to run. I filled my car up this week, chances are you did the same (unless you cycle; but then, you know your bike tyres? Yep, made from oil). The US summer driving season, when the international price of oil jumps on the back of demand caused by Americans driving to their holidays, is around the corner.

The full effects of this latest oil spill will be hideous, but responsibility for what has happened is yours, and mine.

After the election, what state the British economy?

It depends who you ask. Tesco says economic recovery is on; Carpetright fears a double-dip back into recession. You need someone you can trust; I turn to Neil, my builder, for a live, street-level view of the state of the British bottom line.

Neil recently took an eight-tonne digger to the bodgy extension at the back of my house, revealing an absence where the foundations were supposed to be. The job is now going to take longer than planned, but Neil already has a log-jam of work piling up elsewhere and is going to have to juggle the work between us. Bad news for me, but a positive sign that things are looking up out there.

Even better, Neil was outbid in his own attempt to buy a house by one of four other would-be buyers who were interested. Sad for Neil I know, but good news again that confidence, and cash, is starting to flow more freely.

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