Who is BP trying to fool?
By Emily Feinberg, Development/Gulf Associate
The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster flowed unabated for three months in 2010. In August of 2011, oil and oil sheen covering several square miles of water were reported surfacing not far from BP’s Macondo well. The oil was a chemical match to Macondo.
For about 20 months, the Gulf Coast has been experiencing extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as the fishing and tourism industries. Immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil, not visible on the surface, were reported as well as a “kill zone” surrounding the blown well. NOAA reports from October of 2011 show dolphins and whales still dying at twice their normal rate, and fish washed up on Dauphin Island with red lesions. The disaster continues.
White House energy advisor, Carol Browner, called this spill the “worst environmental disaster the US has faced.” In April 2011, one year from the onset of the spill, scientists confirmed that they had discovered oil on dead dolphins found along the Gulf Coast. Fifteen of the 406 dolphins that had washed ashore in the previous 14 months had oil on their bodies; oil was linked to the BP disaster. In July 2011, BP released a report claiming that the economy had recovered and there was no reason to believe that anyone would suffer future losses from the spill, with the limited exception of oyster harvesters. It could take years for those in the fishing industry to fully realize the spill’s effects. The Gulf is also the spawning ground for the endangered bluefin tuna. A study commissioned by Greater New Orleans, Inc. and conducted by IEM and Headwater Capital Consulting in 2010 estimated the short-term gross revenue loss to the fishing industry could be $115-172 million, a direct result of the BP disaster. Louisiana’s $2.4 billion seafood industry supplies up to 40% of US seafood supply and employs over 27,000 people.
The oil giant responsible for this disaster has rolled out ad campaign painting the Gulf Coast as all better and open for business, but locals will tell you otherwise. BP PLC's rosy picture of the Gulf, complete with sparkling beaches, booming businesses, smiling fishermen and waters bursting with seafood, seems a bit too rosy to many people who live there. Even if the British oil giant's campaign helps promote the Gulf as a place where Americans should have no fear to visit and spend their money, some dismiss it as "BP propaganda."
"I'm glad to report that all beaches and waters are open for everyone to enjoy!" BP representative Iris Cross says in one TV spot to an upbeat soundtrack. "And the economy is showing progress, with many areas on the Gulf Coast having their best tourism season in years." Celebrity chefs Emril Lagasse and John Besh are being paid by BP to promote Gulf seafood, and are spreading this message through pre-game parties throughout the college Bowl games beginning just before Christmas. The true story of what’s happening in Gulf communities is far less shiny than it looks in these videos. "They should be a little more apologetic and less triumphant," said George Crozier, an oceanographer and former director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.
It’s important to see through the silk screen BP is attempting to blind us with. The real picture is far more troubling, and it does no good to move on and forget all that BP has put us through. The oil giant’s ads are triumphant and boastful, touting their continued commitment and efforts to cleaning up the spill. Want to see what’s really going on? Check out our Gulf Coast Waterkeepers and give them a hand. BP needs to be held responsible for the ongoing damage they’ve caused.
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