Gulf Oil Spill Heightens Global
Concerns About Drilling Safety
There has been no oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico since Thursday, when BP close the valves on a new cap atop the well and tests have shown no signs of damage. The current plan calls for the well to be plugged with mud and cement, but there may be changes in the method of permanently sealing it.
The massive oil spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico has forced nations around the world to increase inspections, upgrade equipment and procedures to prevent accidents, and even postpone the building of new pipelines.
Countries such as the U.K., Canada, France, China and Bulgaria are taking steps to prevent a similar disaster, given its astronomical costs involved and, yes, the catastrophic impact on the environment.
In some cases, deep water oil drilling itself is being called into question. The process is expensive, risky and largely uncharted, highlighted by BP’s use of untested methods to try to stem the Gulf spill.
But efforts to ban drilling altogether face powerful obstacles, with the geopolitical implications of the issue not amiss in the discussion. Middle Eastern states, for example, would benefit enormously if deep water drilling is restricted because most of their oil is on land.
Also part of the equation is the case of state-run oil giants such as Brazil’s Petrobras, which is poised to turn the country into one of the world’s biggest oil producers. The government is fully invested on the company’s planned deep water exploration of its recent huge oil basin discoveries.
Located relatively near Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, though, even a minor mishap in the exploration of these so-called pre-salt basis, reservoirs buried below as much as 6,500 feet of salt, would cause irreparable damage to its ecosystem and also to the country’s environmental conscious image. So far, though, the Lula administration has taken very few large scale safety measures to ensure that that won’t happen.
Going back to the still relevant “one-note samba” line of argument used by environmentalists, the biggest unanswered question is why spending so much funds and resources preventing ecological disasters caused by the use of toxic forms of fuel, when a fraction of such investments would suffice to develop practical, alternative means of generating energy.
The answer may be literally “blowing in the wind” but it’s far from being limited by it. Worldwide profits by oil companies continue to reach stratospheric levels and everyday a new line of gasoline-fueled vehicles is launched in the world markets, to meet an ever increasing and avid customer demand.
So it’d be reassuring to believe that a disaster of such a magnitude as the one in the Gulf would reenergize the production of motors and machines fueled by sources of energy other than petroleum based. But the evidence just pointed to a different direction.
Due to the overwhelming consequences of the disaster, its rising human and material costs, and build up of political pressure to control and address them, the issue of why it’s happened in the first place loses its weight by the minute.
We all seem to be too busy trying to devise ways of cleaning up this lethal mess, way too distracted by the cataloguing of its effects on the surrounding areas, far too involved in the political wrangling of attributing responsibility to the due culprits, that issues such as why and when enough is enough, fall, unfortunately, through the cracks of the ocean floor.