Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The real culprit?

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

Anglers the world over have been following the heart-wrenching news from the Gulf of Mexico--not only is the region's seafood industry in long-term peril, but some of the best recreational saltwater angling in the world is at stake thanks to a leaking oil well caused after the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig exploded and sank off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers.

The loss of life alone is tragic, and, according to new reports, possibly avoidable. Apparently, there are now allegations of faulty practices against, of all maligned oil and gas industrial partners, Halliburton. It seems the giant oilfield servicing corporation (Hey, Dick! How was the fishing on the South Fork? Dick!) was in charge of the "cementing" process, during which cement is pumped down to the ocean floor once the drilling has ended, but before production begins. The cement is supposed to plug the well until production can begin and oil can be safely transported to the surface.

A lawsuit from the family of one of the dead workers alleges Halliburton was negligent in its cementing efforts, and the faulty result might have caused the explosion.

Already, BP (British Petroleum and it's new Beyond Petroleum motto--it has clearly gone Beyond Petroleum in this intance) is busy pointing the finger at the owner of the Deepwater Horizon (BP just leased it). Give BP some credit, however--they continue to say they'll pay for the cleanup of the huge mess they've caused, although it was just reported that fines and penalites for the spill could be minimal if the federal Minerals Management Service remains true to form. Keep in mind, too, that we haven't seen the full effect of this oil spill--while drilling has begun in order to properly plug the well, some 200,000 gallons of oil continues to surge out of the ocean-floor well every day.

We're hearing now that the oil slick has entered the Gulf's circular current, and that southwest Florida is now in the crosshairs. We could actually see oil washing up in the Florida Keys and adversely impacting the coastal Everglades, not to mention the region's priceless commercial and recreational fisheries. Can you imagine that "oily sheen" on your favorite bonefish flat. Already, oil is hitting barrier islands along the Gulf Coast. Awesome.

Remember, this is the very same industry that has, for decades, wanted to drill for oil in the Arctic, punch holes in some of the most treasured landscapes in the West (Roan Plateau, anyone?) and trashed perfectly good landscapes just to boost a bottom line. Drilling domestically has little or no impact on the price of oil or natural gas commodities at the pump or the pilot light. The U.S. simply lacks the oil resources, onshore or off, to alter the economic reality that the bulk of the world's oil is produced elsewhere by not-so-friendly emirates, dictatorships and zealot-led nations.

Natural gas? There's a glut on the market, and we already produce 85 percent of our own marketable fuel. The other 15 percent? Thanks, Canada.

So, we're drilling offshore... why? Good question. Wonder how much Halliburton made when it "plugged" that well...

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