Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/628/9783

From The Socialist newspaper, 9 June 2010

Oil spill shows hazards of the profit system

IT IS still difficult to assess the scale of the disaster that followed the explosion on the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on 22 April, which killed eleven workers. BP claims that 'only' 210,000 gallons a day of crude oil have been released so far, but others calculate the figure could be as high as 4.2 million gallons a day.

Pete Dickenson

These estimates show a huge difference but it is impossible to check as the company refuses to allow independent scientists and engineers access to perform their own tests. Even if the lower figure is accepted, Deepwater Horizon is the most seriously polluting oil spill in US history, by far exceeding the previous worst, the Exxon Valdez tanker accident off Alaska in 1989 which released eleven million gallons.

It is not clear how long it will be before the well is capped, since attempts to plug the leak are continuing at the time of writing. However a blow-back from a well being drilled in the same area in 1979, Ixtoc 1, took nine months and 22 days to cap. And this was only achieved after two relief wells were dug, a very time-consuming process that in this case, BP admit, will take until August at the earliest.

Even then the technical problems will be massive. The leak is 5,000 feet down on the sea bed, whereas Ixtoc 1 was only in 150 feet of water, and the pipe to be capped is just 21 inches across. In a further complication, the region's hurricane season is just beginning which could compound the technical difficulties.

To give a handle on the possible scale of this incident, the US Coast Guard categorises marine oil spills as minor, medium or major, with major spills releasing over 100,000 gallons. If the higher estimate of leakage proves true, about 160 million gallons have already leaked, but the impact on the environment will still be severe even if the lower estimates are correct.

Oil poisons the coastal sea floor, interrupting the food chain that marine life depends on and ultimately threatening the extinction of species. The Gulf of Mexico is an important habitat for endangered sperm whales, sea turtles and blue fin tuna which will be under threat. Sea birds are very vulnerable, with millions likely to be killed by exposure to crude oil.

The coastal fishing industry will be devastated as fish are contaminated, with thousands of jobs then destroyed, some permanently. Tourism will be hit if large quantities of oil are deposited on beaches and recreational fishing has to be abandoned.

Many politicians now blame a failure of regulation for the accident and there were scandalous failings in this area. Friends of the Earth described the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the government body responsible for regulation, as corrupt. Even President Obama now complains, after the event, of the cosy relationship the body has with Big Oil, the multinationals dominating the industry.

A US government report on the MMS found a 'revolving door' of oil company executives joining the agency, watering down the regulations and then going back to their original companies on higher salaries.

BP applied for a drilling permit for this project to MMS in February 2009, stating that it was 'highly unlikely that an accidental oil spill will occur' and even if it did, BP would be able to fix it. The MMS accepted this at face value. No further details were asked for, although BP now admits that it was not prepared for this accident.

The politicians, including President Obama, are hypocritical when they now complain about BP's activities or the failings of regulation. A month before the disaster the US government announced plans to open up large areas of the coastline to oil exploration, which was banned after the Exxon Valdez accident.

Even after the 22 April explosion, the administration still refused to permanently ban off-shore deep sea drilling, and in fact handed out several dozen new permits for offshore drilling including two to BP.

The regulatory failures were scandalous, if not criminal, but to call for improvements and to restructure the regulatory bodies, as Obama is now doing, misses the point. Deep sea drilling for oil poses huge risks and should be banned permanently.

A wider issue is also involved, the need to tackle global warming. This requires that the burning of oil, a major driver of climate change, be reduced to a fraction of its current level, if not phased out entirely. This will mean that the big oil companies have no future in their present form and need to be restructured.

Most of them dabble in renewable energy technologies at the moment, but this is largely done for PR purposes with no serious intent to switch over their operations in a meaningful way. These companies however possess expertise in many areas that could be used to help switch to renewable energy, for example, in overcoming problems linked to the storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) that urgently need to be solved if this potentially useful technology is to be safe.

Their knowledge of under-sea engineering could be used to devise a safe way to store the carbon dioxide generated when coal-fired power plants use carbon capture technology to eliminate global warming effects.

BP and the other oil companies though, will never voluntarily cease drilling in deep sea locations. Still less will they seriously address problems like carbon capture, since it is more profitable for them to keep operating as they are.

It will be necessary to nationalise these multinationals, and put them under genuine democratic control, in order to begin an orderly restructuring of their operations that will meet the planet's environmental needs.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 9 June 2010:

Reject these brutal cuts


National Shop Stewards Network

Come to the NSSN conference unite the fightback!


Socialist Party Marxist analysis

Why public sector cuts are not inevitable


Socialist Party news and analysis

Marches show opposition to Israeli state terror

Determined BA cabin crew ready to reballot

EDL thugs sent packing from Cardiff

EDL protest stopped in Swansea

Fast news


Socialist Party workplace news and analysis

CWU ballots BT workers for strike over pay

Unite conference - union at the crossroads

Wales TUC - rank and file delegates support socialist fightback


Socialist Party youth and students

Future of cuts a nightmare for youth

College campaign success

Socialist Students national meeting: Preparing for a student fightback

Youth Fight for Jobs open steering committee

Lobby Iain Duncan Smith at his surgery

Socialist Party youth meeting: ready to build a fightback


Socialist Party feature

Soccer World Cup 2010: South Africa, the ugly backdrop to the beautiful game


Environment and socialism

Oil spill shows hazards of the profit system

Bhopal - little justice 25 years on


News and comment

Will the Lib Dems survive coalition?

Bradford murders and prostitution


 

Home   |   The Socialist 9 June 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Oil:

triangleLibya: Civil war and chaos follow interventions by world and regional powers

triangleShell pays 0 corporation tax, and plans huge hike in fossil output

triangleDrone attacks on Saudi Arabia: Tensions ratcheted up

triangleOil firms spend $1bn fighting climate laws: 'Green New Deal' needs socialist policies

triangleTen years since Lindsey strike: when militant action stopped the 'race to the bottom'

Profit system:

triangleTories' obesity plans - blaming individuals not the profit system

triangleTrump's trashing of the environment - Dump the capitalist profit system!

triangleProfit system rapidly destroying environment

triangleTurn Carillion crisis into movement against privatisation and capitalism

BP:

triangleClimate watch

triangleBuild student unions and walkouts to fight climate change and Trump!

triangleNews in brief

US:

triangleAnniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

triangleCuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo

Carbon:

triangleJohnson emits huge quantities of hot air!

Obama:

triangleUS: "We've had to build a huge culture of resistance"

Global warming:

triangleTV Review: Apocalypse Cow

Environment:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

Climate change:

triangleThem and us

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

12/8/20

Young Socialists

After Scottish government U-turn, Young Socialists fight for a future on A-Level results day

5/8/20

NHS

'First you clap us then you slap us'

5/8/20

Young Socialists

Young Socialist day of action

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Campaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

5/8/20

Black Lives Matter

North London: Socialist Party speaks at BLM protest

5/8/20

Hull

Engage for Change Hull - trade union youth festival goes online

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Why I joined - Covid changed my outlook

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Socialist Party meetings: Online and in-person

5/8/20

Young Socialists

A-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!

5/8/20

Caerphilly

GE Aviation workers march to save jobs

5/8/20

Trotsky

80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky rally

5/8/20

BAME

Fighting to end racism and capitalism

5/8/20

Doncaster

Doncaster: Vigil for murdered women

5/8/20

The Socialist

The Socialist summer schedule

5/8/20

Unite

Unite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999