“It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimised by this manmade disaster are made whole”. These words of US President Obama on the ongoing catastrophe that is the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico won’t get him off the hook.
The words are equally as hollow as any uttered by Bush about the human tragedy he presided over after Hurricane Katrina devastated the same region five years ago, where the working class and poor disproportionately suffered and died. Obama’s record speaks for itself – three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Obama administration revealed plans to open up vast areas in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling for the first time.
Obama’s subsequent backtrack on this can’t hide the reality that administration after administration in the US, both Republican and Democrat, have ably facilitated the oil magnates, as well as furthering deregulation of industry of all hues. For example, a cursory examination of the exponential growth of the sub-prime mortgage industry exposes the fact that it began in the mid 1990s, under the nose of the Clinton administration, as “light”, read “lack of”, regulation was heralded.
That’s not to say that an attempt to regulate the likes of BP would have wielded much success. Time and again, BP has shown the unscrupulous nature of private corporations. When the oil spill first occurred BP denied it had happened. Subsequently they tried to pass it off as a small spill. Later they denied that “plumes” of oil were emanating from the site of the catastrophe, trying to downplay the scale of the disaster. They even tried to prevent scientists from using the most up to date technology to measure the scale of the damage.
The injury that the spill has and is inflicting on both the wildlife and broader eco-system of the region is immeasurable, not to mention the human cost for workers and poor of the Gulf Coast, particularly those directly and indirectly employed by marine-activity in the area. This, as well as the deaths of 11 workers on the oil rig, can be directly attributed to the profiteering of BP. For example, it was recommended by BP’s contractors, that they use 21 pieces of equipment called “centralisers” at the oil rig. BP used one. A BP project co-ordinator said in an email in reference to this decision, “But who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job.” Furthermore, BP saved about $118,000 by not having a scan done that checks if there are any faults in the cementing. Little wonder that this is a company that made a profit of $14 billion in 2009!
BP’s actions are utterly reprehensible and unspeakably perilous. We simply cannot afford to wreak havoc on the precious natural world in the fashion of profiteers of BP’s ilk. Obama’s support amongst US workers has justifiably waned in the course of the economic crisis and thankfully, his hypocritical attempts to vilify the ‘foreign’ BP company, have failed to exonerated him. His hypocrisy lies in the fact that US multinationals, like Exxon Mobile for example, play a similar role in countries that they operate in. In fact, Exxon Mobile as well as Shell and other oil companies, are directly responsible for the startling fact that in the Niger Delta in Africa, more oil is spilled per year than has been spilled in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
This is a contributing factor in life expectancy in rural communities of the region dipping as low as littleover 40 years of age. We cannot afford to let the profit-worshippers destroy the planet and human lives. BP should be taken into public ownership. We need an international working class movement to nationalise major corporations under the control and management of workers. We need major investment and planning for a wholesale shift to renewable energy. In order to preserve our planet for future generations, we need to put an end to the undemocratic profit-system in which CEOs of multinationals like BP can act with impunity and wreak havoc over the environment and the lives of workers and poor.