• What BP Isn’t telling you: This isn’t just an American problem

    By James Sved on June 21, 2010

    WASHINGTON, DC (Herald de Paris) – So much of the handling of this BP Oil Disaster (a name for this mess we are advocating as it does not downgrade the situation, since IT’S NOT A SPILL) has been left to BP, out of the hands of the international science community and away from US federal agencies, I thought I might remind you all of what might happen if this hemorrhaging of crude oil is allowed to continue much longer:  Think Gulf Stream.

    Called “The North Atlantic Drift” in Europe, the Gulf Stream is perhaps the most influential current on our planet.  It is responsible for the movement of warm, equatorial waters up the East coast of the United States, bringing with it an abundance of sea life that – right or wrong – is responsible for a substantial portion of the US seafood industry.

    More importantly, the Gulf Stream crosses the Atlantic Ocean diagonally, and is responsible for making the waters of the Scandinavian countries navigable all year round, thus affecting shipping of goods and products around the world.  In fact, the winds blowing over the warmer Gulf Stream is the primary reason places like London and Paris don’t get colder, in the winters.

    The warm Gulf Stream waters come off the equator and South America, hugging the coastline of Central America to the Yucatan Peninsula.  Some of the waters move directly Northward along the Eastern Caribbean, but others enter the Gulf of Mexico before being carried through the Caribbean Sea, where it rejoins the rest of the Gulf Stream heading Northward.

    Ultimately, BP’s escaped crude oil will be carried right into the Gulf Stream.

    Here’s where it gets hairy.  Some of the Gulf Stream waters move directly Eastward towards the Western Coast of Africa, where subtropical recirculation sends it right back to the Brazilian coast of South America, back up the coast, and right back into the Gulf of Mexico.  And if it isn’t bad enough that, like a boomerang, some of this crude oil will end up right back where it first shot out of the deep source below the Gulf, what happens to the rest of it is even more concerning.

    The crude oil that will be carried by the Northward fork of the Gulf Stream will cross the Atlantic and eventually cause ecological and aquatic food chain issues.  That’s right, BP tar balls will eventually wash ashore in the United Kingdom (kind of fitting), France, Spain, Portugal, and the Scandinavian countries.

    Now, here’s where it gets fun (sarcasm).  Some of the North Atlantic tar balls will never make it to the European coast.   They will cross the Atlantic again and migrate back down the North American coast to places like Canada, Maine, and the other US coastal states that missed it the first time.  And if all this isn’t enough to make you take notice, some of the crude oil (and dispersant) will become trapped in the North Atlantic Gyre.  Yep, the same plastic garbage vortex that birds and fish and marine mammals die from nibbling on will soon also be coated in BP’s oily and toxic soup.

    In all, by being too cheap to invest US$1 Million in the mandated safety equipment, BP will instead be depositing toxic tar balls on the coasts of four continents, and altering the futures of fish, marine mammals, and waterfowl over 1/3 of our planet.  The only possible bright spot in the entire situation may well be that because of the oceanic currents, the last remaining pristine and thriving coral reefs in the world, in the Western Caribbean, might actually be passed by and spared.

    Therefore, I urge the governments on all four continents to join in affecting a solution to this disaster, and for the US government  to work unilaterally with all the potentially affected nations.  The stakes are too high to leave this up to BP to handle properly, and it is not solely an American problem.


    Michael Sarles June 21, 2010

    Thank you Jes for bringing this matter to the world’s attention. I am still amazed that just because this disaster involves oil this country and the world turns a blind eye. The faces of government say the right things, express outrage, promise speedy clean up and restitution. Where is the action behind these words. The best and brightest are not allowed to join in the solution. I do not even understand why. We already know BP messed up, let people with added nohow help stop this ecocide. It is criminal negligence.

    Brenda Mantz June 21, 2010

    Maybe Yeats forsaw this in “The Second Coming”

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Ian June 21, 2010

    Blaming BP for being to cheap is a convenient way to absolve oneself from culpability for a problem that we all bear responsibility for. We paid for the BP leak with the money we spend on gas. Every day the USA burns 4 times as much oil as has leaked out in the whole disaster so far. Think that pollution stays in the USA?

    So go ahead, blame BP.Stick with the claim that their $1M cheapness caused this disaster, rather than being a simple consequence of our addiction to oil.

    But once you’re done feeling smug and outraged in equal measure, ask yourself who’s up there in Washington, lobbying like hell to create lax regulation and even more lax regulators -both of whom fail to create and then enforce tough safety standards, or limit drilling in sensitive areas. Who’s paying for those lobbying fees? You are.

    Read more here: http://iancollingwood.com/the-scale-of-our-oil-problem

    Jes Alexander June 21, 2010

    Thanks for your comments Ian, but sorry – I will not take the blame for BP’s mistake. Not even a percentage of it. I explain why I won’t … here: http://www.heralddeparis.com/rebuttal-to-nyt-op-ed-this-time-is-different/93301

    Ian June 21, 2010

    Jes –

    the problem with your argument is that you’re trying to blame a corporation for doing what it’s designed to do: Maximising revenue and minimising costs, by any means necessary. In the short term by cost cutting and skating close to the letter of the law, in the medium and long term, by externalising as many costs as possible and lobbying for ever greater freedom from current and future regulation. Blame is not something you can attach to corporations. Entities such as corporations are not moral beings – so blaming them gets you nowhere. The only punishment you have in your arsenal is simply not buying their product; and we can only do this by configuring our lifestyles to eliminate the need for ever greater amounts of oil. And to support those developing alternatives with investment and our spending. I despise capitalism, but other than revolution I see little alternative if you want to change things in the short-medium term.

    Complaining that the government should do something is also unlikely to work – “one person, one vote” seems not to work when non-human entities (i.e. corporations – which are, as we have know, amoral) hold huge sway in our politics by dint of their financial power. This is where I see the root cause of the problem.

    Do you agree, and if you do, (and indeed if you don’t), how do you suggest we change things?

    Jes Alexander June 21, 2010

    With all respect Ian, a corporation that cuts costs and skates close to the letter of the law takes a certain risk, and in doing so is liable to make right that which occurs when that risk does not fall in their favor. It is a gamble. Mathematically speaking, when you gamble sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The losers do not get their money back from the house just because they are corporations. This time, the corporation lost. Lives were lost, economies will be disrupted, and the entire food chain might be affected. BP played against the house on a mammoth scale. They put all their chips on black, rolled some monumental roulette wheel, and not only did the ball THEY put into play land on red, but the roulette ball blew up. People died and explosive roulette balls are still rolling out into the streets, and nobody knows how to stop it or when they are going to do more harm. This is a crime scene, and as anyone can tell you … someone always pays for the crime. Corporations may, as you say, be amoral, but when they knowingly incur risk, they can be held liable. With regard to changing things no, I do not profess to to have the answers. My job is to report the news, not to make it.

    Collin June 21, 2010

    ….”last remaining pristine and thriving coral reefs in the world, in the Western Caribbean,” …

    Not true! Maybe for that half of the globe, but the reefs in the Fiji Islands (and many South Pacific island nations) are thriving beautifully!

    Tammy June 21, 2010

    I am not willfully paying this administration to make the decisions they are making! Therein lies the problem, if “we the people” had our voices heard, this oil spill would be handled very differently! Many have offered to help, all have been refused. This spill affects the world, why won’t this administration accept help?!

    Charlie0 June 21, 2010

    To ask for help suggests weakness; something this administration cannot afford to do. Obama=mc2

    Rick June 21, 2010

    Ian is right – it’s our fault. Blame us first. Blame america first. 9/11 is our fault too. Had nothing to do with terrorism. Boo capitalism. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    I don’t know why I’m wasting my breathe.

    We should just switch to alternative sources of energy so Ian and his ilk can blame some other industry. Actually he’ ll just blame us again….

    John Mantz June 22, 2010

    Juan Cole is much smarter than I am. But the argument that we are at fault is crap!! See, http://www.juancole.com/2010/06/big-oils-predations-are-not-your-fault.html

    John Mantz June 22, 2010

    The corporations not only make the products, they also create the need. Major Oil Companies are responsible for this country’s failure to move to cleaner fuel sources. (change will never come by “little people” just taking a bike to work, get over it Ian). Just like Wars are created by Weapons makers!!! Besides most of the oil pumped out of the gulf does not go to us, it is sold overseas!! Blaming our overconsumption is a cop-out by people who are afraid to confront corporate establshment. I guess you would blame those people whose land was despoiled by Halliburton and now have flames shooting out of their water faucets and not Chaney who got the exemption in the clean water act, so that his former company could exploit natural gas reserves by poisining the water supply (See HBO documentary “Gasland”) Ian our overconsumption is just plain-out an unsophisticated and lame argument. I can’t put it anyother way!!!!

    Mark June 22, 2010

    Until we human’s use up all the fossil fuel we can get hold of at any and all costs, we will continue to rape the earth. We are a mob addicted to technology fueled by fossil fuels. There are no alternatives that compete. We have to have our airplanes and cars and phones and internet and refridgerators and computers, and airconditioners and electric lights and…. get the idea. None of us is truely ready to go back to living in balance with the earth. We believe we can engineer a fix for the problems with the last engineered fix and so on and so forth rased the nth degree… bla bla bla.

    We will never solve this problem until we run out of fossil fuel.

    John Mantz June 22, 2010

    another thing. the whole idea of government, law ect. is that left to our own devices we will F things up. Only Marx and the Teabaggers think we can get along without government. The problem isn’t that we crave sex, possessions, and security over all. the purpose of each of our individual journies is IMHO to overcome our instinctual drives. However, we are not all going to get there on the same karmic time table, hence government. The problem is that our current government is captured by Global Corporations to detriment to the World’s flesh and blood citizens. In Michael Moore’s movie my favorite scene is where two catholic priests attest that capitalism is evil and contrary to the teachings of Christ. We should head their warnings and weed out the villians, and there are villians, as soon as possible!!

    Robert James March 4, 2012

    Hi – I would just like to say that finger pointing and name calling will not help clean up the oil or stop this happening again. Just as it is no longer correct to refer to BP as British Petroleum, it should be remembered that BP is more than 50% US owned nowadays – correct me if I’m wrong, so pointing the finger at the UK is also invalid and inane. For example, the arms industry exists and thrives as a result of the demand for it’s products, sadly. So, if you don’t use any oil or oil derived products in your life, maybe you do have the right to point the finger, but how many of you truly qualify? It must be zero.
    Just for information, there is a yellow-green scum on the surf on the Portuguese Atlantic coast, though I have no accurate information on it’s source, so I won’t point the finger westwards… Rob xx

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