On April 20th, the Deepwater horizon, a British Petroleum (BP) oil rig off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and began spilling enormous quantities of oil into the waters of the gulf. The oil well is 5,000 feet deep and fifty miles off shore. In the explosion eleven workers were killed. Five million gallons of oil have leaked out so far, but the total quantity is an estimated to be between 200 million and 700 million gallons. This is the worst oil-related disaster in history.
Three Criminal Corporations.
Investigations of the spill have led to three different companies: British Petroleum, Transocean, and Haliburton. The oil well is leased by British Petroleum, one of the largest oil corporations in the world. They made $6.1 billion in profits from oil during the first quarter of 2010. Meanwhile, they have one of the worst safety records of any oil company. In the last years, they have been fined $550 million by the government for safety violations. Transocean is the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Last year, the oil rig was exempted from a detailed inspection. In a sickening move, they took out a 560 million-dollar insurance policy on the oil rig – worth more than the rig itself! Because of their insurance, they have made $270 million in profits from the spill and the killing of eleven of their employees. Halliburton, is a company which is well-known for its high-profit contracts with the military. They made $14.7 billion in 2009. Anywhere from 11 to 17 percent of their profits come from constructing oil wells. They were contracted to place cement in and around the Deepwater Horizon’s oil wells to keep the oil from spilling. They have been implicated in other oil spills including a spill where their cement-job failed on an oil rig off the coast of Australia last August.
Who Will Pay?
The last people to pay for the spill will be the companies involved. British Petroleum has spent $350 million dollars so far. But this is only four days worth of profit! They will only lose a few days profit from the cleanup, and a law called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund limits the liability of BP to no more than $75 million for costs not related to cleanup.
The Real Costs
The real costs of the damage will be paid by the fisherman of Louisiana and New Orleans who can no longer fish the waters. The fishing industry is expected to lose $2.5 billion. The costs will be paid by the sickness of suffering coastal communities. And the highest cost will be paid by the Gulf ecosystem. The oil is thin high quality oil used to produce gasoline, and mixes quickly with the water. The Gulf of Mexico contains a delicate ecosystem based around deep-sea coral reefs, positioned right next to the oil wells. There are species which live off of the natural gas leaks which come from the oil deposits of the gulf. These species are found nowhere else on earth. The destruction of this habitat is irreversible.