For one month now millions of gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico. An underwater oil well being drilled by British Petroleum exploded killing eleven workers and seriously injuring 17. After the explosion BP and the US government sprang into action – to protect the financial interests of the giant oil company.
The surviving workers who escaped the burning oilrig by getting into over-crowded lifeboats or jumping 60 feet into the water, watched as the giant oil rig burned. After suffering this trauma they were rescued by a ship owned by Transocean, the oilrig owner. They were then kept isolated, unable to call family and friends, for another 40 hours. When the ship docked, workers were met with portable toilets set up by the company for drug tests, and by lawyers who demanded that the workers sign forms saying they didn’t know what caused the disaster.
The state and federal governments responded in a similar way. They put BP in charge of the entire operation after the disaster began. Their response has been to restrict information, minimize the size of the clean-up operation and run reporters away from the scene –- all to protect BP.
This approach is beginning to backfire, as information about the size of the disaster is getting out. BP claimed that 5000 gallons a day were escaping from the well. Now the estimates range from 200,000 to one million gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf. This is like having one to five high-pressure fire hoses spraying oil 24 hours a day!
And BP remains in charge. They are supposed to take care of the cleanup as well as monitor the levels of water and air pollution. This is worse than putting the fox in charge of a hen house. At least a fox has a limited appetite.
BP’s response so far has been to cover up the magnitude of the disaster. It had the chemical Corexit sprayed on the oil slick to make it disappear. Of course it didn’t. And the visible oil is only a small part of the disaster. Millions of gallons are below the surface. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, has ordered them to stop using this chemical because, according to the EPA, it is “carcinogenic, mutagenic, and highly toxic.” But at least 600,000 gallons have been sprayed already.
A few weeks before this disaster, Obama announced that oil companies would be given new offshore oil leases on the eastern seaboard. Now he and his administration are trying to distance themselves from the disaster, pointing their fingers at the big oil companies. But it is their disaster as well. It is a disaster that shows the functioning of the system they represent and defend. It is a system that represents a callous disregard for all forms of life. It cannot even pretend to respond to the disasters it has created.
Even in the days following the BP oil spill, it was still business as usual. The Federal Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore oil and gas production, approved 27 new Gulf drilling operations. All of them were exempted from environmental review!
Their business as usual has left a path of destruction. BP has been convicted time after time for its reckless operations – killing workers and creating environmental disasters. But it is not just big oil. The coal companies do the same, killing miners and devastating the environment. The banks that swindled seven million people out of their homes have created a disaster for those people. The corporations, like GM and Toyota, that throw thousands of workers into the street, create disasters – all in the name of business as usual.
Their business as usual approach is destroying our lives. It is destroying our planet. It is stealing the future from younger generations. Life is something to cherish and protect. And it is clear that this system, the system of capitalism, that holds profits above life, does not hold that value. It is time for us to build a system that does. Our lives and the planet’s existence hang in the balance.