5 million gallons and 2 years later…

If I were to walk outside right now and ask the next person I see what the words “Deepwater Horizon” brought to mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if he/she simply stared at me with a puzzled look. Yet exactly two years ago, we all watched the news as the story of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion developed. It would ultimately become the worst man-made ecological disaster in history as the uncapped well poured nearly 5 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of us chastised the oil companies, BP in particular, for being too concerned with profits and expected the government to take action to prevent future spills. Now, two years later, the storm has quieted down but how much has things really changed? Here are some facts/figures I collected:

BP has paid out just 7.8 billion dollars for economic losses/medical bills to affected people, though it claims a total of 37.2 billion spent in response to the disaster. By comparison, BP had a total revenue of 386 billion dollars in 2011 alone.

The Gulf spill is not the only oil disaster in the last two years. Lost in the media coverage and the aftermath are spills in Utah (June 2010, 33000 gallons), Michigan (July 2010, 1.1 million gallons), Montana (July 2011, 63000 gallons), and countless other spills in foreign countries but from American companies.

Though the Oil Spill Commission ultimately concluded that BP did not sacrifice safety for profits, it also noted that a number of decisions made by BP to speed up construction of the oil rig increased the risks of a disaster. A recent report from former commission members noted that Congress has done very little to improve regulations on offshore drilling. For example, the current liability cap for an offshore oil spill is still a mere 75 million dollars.

I’m sure that decisions are made every day that have significant ecological impact but are necessary for the benefit of society. However, I certainly had hoped that the environmental impacts would remain minor. If something like the Deepwater Horizon disaster can’t galvanize the public into demanding long term changes, then what will it take? What can we do to reach a so-called “tipping point” when we as a society realize that environmental problems need to be solved now?


  1. What is funny is they are getting sued now, not just for environmental damage, but some stockholders are suing them for the massive losses they took (~50%) (example http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20120420/NEWS07/120429989?tags=|61|310|77|303 )

    Ironically, right after the spill would have been a great time to buy their shares, with a 30% increase within 6 months after, and if you bought at the low you would be sitting on over 7% annual dividend yield on the principal.

    • A friend of mine actually mentioned the stock thing to me before too. It feels so unethical making a profit off a disaster like that though, even if we as stockholders would have nothing to do with it.

  2. There are accidents in any occupation within the world. Sure some are much larger than other and some are more recognizable than others. A company can have all the safety procedures in the world and something shitty can still happen. It seems like when it comes to oil companies anymore now days people are breathing down their throats every inch they move. Some individuals are obsessed with what effects it has on our environment and such, but the fact is that there are to many other people that don’t give a shit. These companies do try to put forth effort to keep things safe and under control, but everybody believes that they just do what they want and when they want to do it.

    The problem with society and the environment is that everybody uses energy and demands it yet they don’t truly understand where its coming from, so when something goes wrong with their environment they try to blame corporations and such. People need to understand in order to make a change they have to pitch in and not live so large. If everyone would give up one thing that uses energy everyday, that would be a good place to start saving the environment.

    • The way people live their lives is definitely a huge factor in causing this mess. If it wasn’t for our demand, we wouldn’t need so many suppliers like BP and Exxon-Mobil rushing to compete for our money. However, even an optimist cannot expect it to be easy to change people’s attitudes and daily lives.

      People want to drive everywhere, so we built roads and made them as safe as we can. There are dozens of car manufacturers but we hold them to standards regarding safety. The same is true of planes and all the airlines that operate thousands of jets in the air every day. My main issue here is…are the oil companies giving a reasonable effort to make offshore drilling as safe and clean as possible?

      I found this to be an interesting read on the cleanup efforts back in the day, maybe you will too.


  3. EquationforLife is obviously Rudy Baum.

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