The gulf coast sea floor is bleeding oil at an unbelievable rate. Even if it were in a novel, the story would still be unfathomable.
Seven weeks after the leak began, British Petroleum, the international corporation responsible for the leak, despite the company’s vast resources, has failed to do more than funnel off a portion of the continuing leak for later sale. With every passing day, the problem merely grows.
The images coming out of the hardest hit areas are shocking: surreally horrible photographs of seabirds covered in thick, splotchy layers of oil; beaches devastated by tar balls and residue; the ocean so coated with slime that it reflects a rainbow of colors in the sunlight.
There is currently no way to calculate the long-term human and environmental costs of the oil spill, but the gulf will be feeling them for a long time to come.
British Petroleum has no excuse for the damage it has caused or the fact that it was not prepared to respond to a disaster on the scale of the April 20 explosion. BP has only taken ineffective baby steps in the direction of fixing the problem it started, and it’s not nearly enough. BP needs to accept full responsibility for what it has done and, as President Obama recently demanded, pay for every dime of the damage it is causing.
This includes reimbursing in full any fisherman who lost valuable income because fishing is impossible when an oil slick covers the ocean surface. So far, BP has been paying each boat owner who can prove his business $5,000 a month and deckhands $2,500 a month.
This amount of money is cumbersome considering it does not even match a quarter of what they might earn if they were able to work. As of Monday morning, BP had filled over 18,000 claims—about half the total number of claims submitted to them—together worth over $48 million. That sounds like a lot, but it is a tiny fraction of what they should be paying.
Even BP’s efforts to stem the flow of oil seem flawed and money-motivated. Rather than simply plugging the well, BP has chosen to instead re-cap and funnel the leak, continuing to harvest the oil the way they had been before the explosion occurred. Instead of destroying the well that caused such a catastrophic leak, BP has set itself up to continue profiting from it.
It may take generations for all of the marine animal populations to return to the levels they are at now. BP must make a long-term investment to return the environment to what it was before oil started flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.