An American Oil Spill

SINGAPORE – When accidents happen, there is always enough blame to go around, and with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, no one has been spared – with the exception of one of the main culprits, the American public.

Within a few hours of the accident, critics trained their sights on all the usual suspects: the Minerals Management Service, for giving BP a pass on routine inspections and lapsing into a relationship with the oil industry that United States President Barack Obama denounced as “cozy”; Obama himself, for having failed to enact the reforms at the Interior Department that he had promised while campaigning for election; the oil services firm Transocean, for the faulty blowout preventer; and, of course, BP, for a “lax” and even “reckless” safety culture.

After weeks of swirling wrath, primary responsibility eventually landed on BP’s shoulders. At hearings before a US Senate subcommittee, BP CEO Tony Hayward’s evasive maneuvering and failure to answer point-blank questions infuriated Congressmen and the American public alike. His expression of “contrition” may provide some relief that the key culprit has been fingered, but it brought the sealing of the well no closer.

Furthermore, the situation in the Gulf of Mexico is worsening.  Oil is not leaking at the rate of 1,000 barrels per day, as BP originally estimated, nor up to 19,000 bpd, as calculated by the Flow Rate Technical Group. As a newly released BP internal document revealed, the actual flow is up to 100,000 bpd.