By Paul I. Adujie, New York
Almost a month after the massive explosion at an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in the American Gulf Coast, the massive oil spill, an environmental disaster and catastrophe, continues to unfold.
It would be recalled that 11 oil workers died as the rig exploded and sunk after a malfunction of BP or blowout preventor, a malfunction attributed to poor equipment and dead batteries. This is a BP systems failure which might have stemmed the disaster in magnitude and its aftermaths.
Such needless loss of lives is an unmitigated tragedy caused by greed and singular focus on the bottom-line, all in the name of profit, while BP, Halliburton and Trans Oceans put safety and security of persons in the back-burner. BP made $5 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2010 and made $25 billion dollars profit in 2009, and yet, BP and other oil companies multinationals and oil conglomerates, and oil services companies, are unwilling to make the necessary investments to improve the safety of their workers, just as they are unwilling to make the necessary investments to prevent environmental degradations and extreme pollution.
It is now known that the spewing of oil in the Gulf of Mexico is ten times larger than originally thought. It is now believed that over 70, 000 barrels of crude oil a day have been gushing into the oceans in deluges, so say scientists. In plain English, the comparison in magnitude and volume is, as if Exxon Valdez happens every ten days… gushing and gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. It may take weeks or even months. Technicians hope to clog the leaking well by pumping mud and debris into it, and then cap it with cement.
BP, Shell and other conglomerates and oil multinationals have engaged in these egregious disregards for human lives and pristine environments in their hurry to make profits. Many nations such as Ecuador and Nigeria have dealt with this for decades and decades and were ignored by all, but now, because this current BP disaster and catastrophe occurred on American waters, BP and other oil companies are in trepidations and are gyrating speedily and rapidly to avoid soiled sullied public image in America, and avoid a corporate black eye and bruises from the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
Why? Because these same oil companies have for decades foisted pollution and deaths on the peoples of Nigeria, Ecuador and other nations without remorse or regret and remedial actions. So, why now? Why the difference in attitudes and actions? It is good thing that this massive spill, this disaster and catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is actually a blessing and a wonderfully good thing in disguise, because, from now on, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will become a point of reference or benchmark for oil spills and remediation or remedial actions.
It has to be assumed as well, that from now on, conversations about death and destruction caused by oil companies, are no longer seen as merely collateral damage in hydro carbons searches and as such, merely ancillaries and extraneous matters which should not bother Americans.
This is precisely what Niger Delta in Nigeria has experienced for fifty years and the world ignored it and considered it collateral damage, an ancillary and extraneous matter in the search for hydrocarbons to power the engines of the world’s economies. But now, the world knows, the chickens have come home to roost!
What are the Lessons for Nigerians and Ecuadorians?
It should also interest Nigerians and Ecuadorians how American Oyster-men, fishermen, Shrimper, environmentalists, college professors, scientists, community groups, block clubs in the Gulf States of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have organized themselves without government help or involvements to hold BP to account.
BP has been sued and under threats of more law suits and sundry litigation for spewing 4 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Nigerians and Ecuadorians should also note the clear difference in the behavior on the part of the BP and other oil companies in how voluntarily, remediation, and preemptory actions and compensations have been undertaken. It is not at the behest of governments, but, voluntarily, and in self-serving public relations offensive in efforts by BP to launder its public image amidst this elephantine catastrophe. Voluntarily is the key word and key phrase
BP already gave $100 million dollars to four states voluntarily; now, it just added $70 million, again, voluntarily. That is a total of $170 million dollars in less than one month, and this amount does not include direct payments to locals engaged by BP to deploy booms to mop up plumes of spewing crude oil which is now floating, drifting and sipping into sea current in the Gulf Coast and to Florida Keys and perhaps onward with these gluts, clumps and loops of oil on ocean waves and ocean current onward to the East Coast seas and the Atlantic Ocean
President Obama has been active since the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, he deployed high level American officials to the scene of the disaster and to the Gulf Coast to be on the ground and monitor the spill and remedial actions, in tackling the aftermath of the disaster. Mr. Obama has become furious.
The fact of the matter is that Bush-Cheney administration had cozy relationship with the oil industry and as a consequence, there was unbridled deregulation of the oil and energy sectors. There was this well publicized secret meetings with former U.S Vice president, Dick Cheney and oil companies in writing energy bill for the United States. There are incontrovertible evidence of by-passing critical environmental review and approval, environmental impact statements by oil companies in the United States, while the regulatory authorities looked the other way, at least, until this BP disaster hit.
This is why there have been questions as to why President Obama seemed to have caved in and yielded to the Republican swan song of “Drill Baby Drill” upon which Mr. Obama conceded the expansion of offshore drilling in the continental United States. It is rather ironical that the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe occurred within one month of Mr. Obama’s change of policy and concession to the Republican Party. President Obama has now ordered a reevaluation and reexamination of his offshore drilling policy which he conceded about a month ago. Due to the Gulf of Mexico cataclysms and the risks in offshore system wide spills, moratorium on offshore may be the consequence of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
Massive spillage could have been avoided if BP, Halliburton and Trans Oceans were concerned with safety of persons, aquatic life and the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico. It is the case that 40 % of wetlands in America is the Gulf Coast which now faces imminent ruinations, and yet, Tony Hayward says spill is drop in gulf of Mexico, clearly downplaying the magnitude and enormity of the spillage disaster. BP had no emergency plans no plan A or plan B.
BP, Halliburton, Trans Oceans and other oil multinational companies frequently observe laws only in the breach. It is public knowledge for instance, that there have been no improvements in spill prevention and containment technology during the last twenty years but, on the other hand, drilling technology has improved a thousand fold. BP, Halliburton, Trans Oceans and other oil conglomerate multinationals have not sufficiently invested in disaster preventions and crisis management in view of these obvious high probabilities of disasters in deep sea oil exploration and drilling activities.
Many scientists and sundry experts have testified to the fact that BP, Halliburton, Trans Oceans and other oil companies have cheated and scrounged in the face of the clear and ever present danger imbued in deep sea drilling for oil. Experts such as Mike Mason have publicly stated that these oil companies have allowed these unmitigated disasters which were clearly preventable. The failure to plan, in order to forestall drilling accident, has made accidents such as the Gulf of Mexico inevitable.
There should have been plans for prevention of these sorts of accidents and then additional plans to manage and contain accidents when they do occur. But instead, oil companies have frequently lied about their readiness and availability of technology, ready to prevent and or, contain disasters such as the one on the Gulf of Mexico.
But we now know better! This unprecedented spill catastrophe which some never thought it would happen, has happened, and, so shockingly, there were no plans to stop the spill , prevent further damage, and compensation for damage to persons, properties and the environment. Instead, the world has now discovered what Nigerians and Ecuadorians have known all along and for decades and decades, that oil companies have been cheating and lying.
That is why experts such as Mike Mason and Douglas Brinkley appeared on CNN on Rick Sanchez’s show, pointing to these lackadaisical attitudes on the parts of oil conglomerates and multinationals. There are reports of repeated cheating and lying inspections of BP, according to Mike Mason, and the Gulf of Mexico spillage disaster is the third major disaster in five years by BP. Five years ago, the U.S. government fined BP $100 million dollars after infernos and fires at BP refineries.
The United States agency known as Mineral Management Service or MMS, has been found to have neglected to perform its oversights and supervisory and regulatory function over oil drilling and coal mining companies. The MMS was said to not have insisted on sturdy and robust plans aimed at preventing disasters and or to manage disasters when they do occur before it undertakes approving drilling offshore and deep water drilling etc. There are reported cases of incestuous relationship between corrupt MMS officials and employees of oil companies, involving sex, alcohol and drugs, while neglecting crucial disaster prevention plans, crucial inspections, and crises management investments.
There are disparities and similarities involving the oil spill in America and what unfolds among oil companies in Nigeria and Ecuador. The dichotomies and disparities arise in the disaster response by the same oil multinational companies. In Ecuador and Nigeria, just to name two nations with degraded and extremely polluted environments, where the oil companies from America and Europe offer no recompense, compensate or even any care at all, the pollution they cause induce miscarriages in women, and causes skin diseases and all types of infections.
When means of livelihoods are destroyed, when farmlands are made infertile, when rivers are poisoned with chemical effluents and fishes, aquatic life and wildlife are decimated. And no remorse, no regrets and no compensations are offered even after prolonged legal actions, litigation and arbitration only because they are American and European oil companies who would do no wrong elsewhere.
Whereas, when oil drilling activities and oil explorations results in disasters as we presently witness in America’s Gulf Coast in the Gulf of Mexico, it is particularly noteworthy that BP Halliburton, Trans Oceans etc have engaged in PURELY VOLUNTARY actions at remediation in cleaning up, in offering compensations to individuals and companies and as well as offering $170 million dollars within one month, to the US Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, even well before the effects and consequences of pollution become apparent.
There is no oil slick or sludge onshore in any of these four Gulf Coast states just yet and yet, there are these aggressive preemptive goodwill measures not based on court orders or public protests or arbitration or compulsions. Again, operative word phrase, voluntarily. Why do these oil companies act voluntarily in Alaska, North Sea and Gulf of Mexico?
In Nigeria and Ecuador, there have been clear cases of deaths, miscarriages, diseases and infections resulting from activities of American and European oil multinationals conglomerates. There have been complaints for 50 years in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, and similar complaints have persisted in Ecuador and other oil producing nations. There have been peaceful protests over the years and violent protests took over because nonviolent and peaceful suasion were disregarded and neglected for eons.
There have been slew of legal actions, litigation and arbitration. There have been court judgments and court orders in Nigeria and in The Netherlands which were ignored by American and European oil companies most notorious among them, Shell Oil. Why are oil companies forever so willing to act voluntarily to compensate and act properly in response to disasters such as the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound in Alaska or in the North Sea or currently in the Gulf of Mexico, but these same oil conglomerates are unwilling to similarly act voluntarily or even under compulsion through court judgments or orders in the persisting environmental catastrophes in Ecuador and Nigeria even as you read this?
These American and European oil companies are very calculatingly manipulative in their actions in America and Europe in comparison with their actions in say, Ecuador and Nigeria. In America and Europe, these oil companies aspire or at least pretend to be socially responsible corporate actors. These oil companies adopt public highways and public squares and sponsor sports teams locally and to the Olympics. Conversely, these same companies are splendidly demonstrating extraordinary lack of interests in good corporate citizenship; these oil companies never aspire or engage or pretend to act in socially responsible ways in say, Ecuador and Nigeria. These oil companies act as though they are mere mercenaries in paid plunders without long term interests in the outcomes of Ecuador and Nigeria etc
If this double standard is not the exemplification of arrogance on the part of the oil multinationals, one is not sure what is? If these disparities and dichotomies in response and treatments of disasters and victims do not amount to conscious devaluation operations of the human lives in Ecuador and Nigeria, one wonders what is.
Environmental Racism is the only explanation and poor excuse by these oil companies, for these differences in treatments of victims of oil drilling activities. And if this offensive practice of environmental racism is not just that, what then explains these continuing discriminating practices against victims of identical toxic pollutions? What explains these selective attitudes to victims of toxic pollutions caused by the same American and European oil giants? What explains permanence in always selectively choosing to compensate Americans and Europeans; but quite unwilling to compensate Ecuadorians and Nigerians, as the oil companies remain adamant in denying their liabilities?
It is environmental racism to spill oil and inflict toxic pollution upon Ecuador and Nigeria and take no action to clean up, even despite court orders. But clean up lesser harms and spillage in Alaska, North Sea and now the Gulf of Mexico. And it is racism, which gives birth to the arrogance upon which the pungent-putrid idea, the very filthy, the irrational, and the illogical idea of racial superiority, is rooted, and built, it is racism and the arrogance from it in which other races’ lives are devalued and disregarded even when such other races are directly injured by overt acts of the “superior” race.
Yes! It is good thing that this massive oil spill, this disaster and catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is actually a blessing and a wonderfully good thing in disguise, because, from now on, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will become a point of reference or benchmark for oil spills and remediation or remedial actions in Ecuador, Nigeria and elsewhere. We believe when adequately informed, the public in America and Europe would not support American and European oil companies egregious offensive dehumanization abroad.
What a good timing!