Could a touch of foresight have prevented the BP oil spill? Recently released internal BP documents suggest that a little discretion could have staved off what has been described as the largest environmental disaster in history.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee made public a series of BP emails and documents from the months preceding the April 20 catastrophe, revealing that the company's disastrous oil spill in the Gulf was no surprise. Or at least, it shouldn't have been.
The dozens of documents divulge a series of money-saving decisions that compromised the safety of the rig. In the six weeks preceding the disaster, BP had spent at least $22 million on the rig, which was overdue to move to its next location. To minimize this hemorrhage of $500,000 per day, BP made a series of money-saving decisions. The company saved $7 million to $10 million by selecting a riskier design model for the well. In addition, they chose to use only six of the 21 recommended centralizers, or devices that assure that the well casing stays centered. Finally, the company decided against a test of the cement's integrity, called a cement bond log.
Would a safer design, more centralizers, or sturdier cement have prevented the rig from exploding? Had the delayed rig not been delayed and losing money, would BP have made these compromises? It's hard to say, and bitter to contemplate. On his fourth and latest trip to the Gulf, Obama vowed that the area would one day return to normal - or better than normal. However, the American public has its doubts. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that more than half of Americans expect the catastrophe to impact the Gulf for at least a decade to come. Eighty percent expect an indefinite impact on the economy, food and gas prices, and half of those surveyed predict that the coastal ecosystem will never fully recover. The Gulf is now paying a higher price for that infamous rig than BP ever did.
In another poll, 59% of Americans said that they want BP to "pay for all financial losses resulting from the Gulf Coast oil spill, including wages of workers put out of work, even if those payments ultimately drive the company out of business," according to gallup.com. Ironically, even a fraction of that price will surely surpass the money BP saved by cutting corners in the first place.
by Sadie Kneidel