Bet you did not even think of the unnamed people whom I contend are highly complicit in the BP oil spill debacle. And you will not like my answer.
British Petroleum? Sure, it’s despicable, irresponsible, greedy etc. But it’s not BP. The government? Acted too slowly, uncaring, ineffective? You may think so, but it’s not the government. People in the oil industry? Environmental trashers, also greedy, not to be trusted, but it’s not the industry. Then who? In the end, it sadly is the residents of Louisiana and the other Gulf coast states! The victims themselves.
With all their crying, shrill voices, recriminations, charges, and finger pointing, where were they when BP, the other greedy oil companies, and the government regulatory agencies permitted and started drilling off shore oil wells in their precious Gulf? I’ll tell you where they were — they were busy collecting their royalty checks and financial benefits from the same disgraceful oil companies and the government that they now denounce. But, because they are true victims — and sincerely tragic ones at that — they seem to have escaped any criticism whatsoever by the media or others.
Consider this. The dangers of off shore drilling were well known and have a well documented history. Many rigs have had a significant record of problems and environmental hazards. There have been more than 40 off shore oil spills since 1964 (13 in the past 10 years), according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS). No one in these states raised a voice to complain or urge ending the drilling, even with this knowledge.
John Rogers Smith, an associate professor of petroleum engineering at Louisiana’s own State University said it clearly: “This is not a zero risk proposition.” Did anyone now complaining listen? Did they even care? No, and here’s why.
The 2006 expansion
To start with, in 2006, the Senate passed, 71 to 25, the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, S. 3711, which would open new territory off the Gulf Coast to oil and natural gas drilling and share a portion of the new royalties with four coastal states (yes, that Sen. Mary Landrieu now urging the government to save her backside from a bad bill). At that time, Landrieu crowed: “The energy produced off the Gulf Coast not only serves Louisiana, but it serves the whole nation,” Landrieu added, “This bill will increase our domestic energy supply, decrease energy prices nationwide and provide jobs for hard working Louisianans.”
In 2017, when coastal revenue sharing would extend to all new production in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana would stand to receive more than $650 million a year. Did anyone in the state comment on the risk/reward component of this action? Did anyone complain then? Did anyone even mention the Santa Barbara example of NIMBY? Did anyone call out Landrieu for her support of Gulf drilling? I can’t hear you!
Similarly, these now distressed citizens of Louisiana voted in a governor who was not only a known advocate of Gulf drilling, but also had the support of the oil lobby, and disdain for federal government regulations: Bobby Jindal.
In his February 2009 response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message, Jindal stated: “The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens … to strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down … or high prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to … increase drilling for oil and gas here at home.”
Their leaders bowed to big oil
Did anyone complain then? Were there complaints then that the government was doing too much? We heard nothing from the citizens of Louisiana then, as we are hearing now. The citizens of Louisiana are now crying for “leadership” — they have their leaders in Jindal and Landrieu and the others who bowed to big oil — the ones they themselves elected.
As an interesting aside, the complainers of Federal response (like Jindal) have neglected to note that Jindal’s administration also has been targeted for the state having inadequate response plans for a disaster of this magnitude; and Jindal himself has been criticized for responding too slowly.
Then there was the extensive lobbying, which should have been well known to most citizens in the state because it was highly publicized. In fact, the corrupt Minerals Management Service paid special heed to Louisiana. One employee was flown on a private company jet to attend the 2005 Peach Bowl in Atlanta, in which Louisiana State University beat the University of Miami. The investigation also uncovered evidence of illegal drug use by at least two MMS employees in Lake Charles. One inspector even conducted four inspections of Island Operating Company oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico while he was negotiating and later accepting a job offer from the company. The results of the Louisiana MMS investigation were presented to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Shreveport, which declined prosecution.
They chose to ignore risks
Now we hear outcries from a variety of leaders from various parishes under siege from the spewing oil. We heard nothing from these same folks years ago when the die was cast for this disaster. Why? Because criticising the oil companies then was political death. Oil meant revenues. Oil meant jobs. Oil was Louisiana’s great resource. But oil also meant the possibility of death and destruction to the environment, a possibility which Louisianans voluntarily chose to ignore. Instead, they opted to take the money and run. That was their attitude then, and it has come back to bite them big time now — and America, as well.
This entire sordid incident reminds me of one of my favorite lines from a great movie: “Casablanca.” In it, the inspector decides he has to shut down Rick’s Place bar as a concession to the bad guys (the Nazis), and states: “I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to find there is gambling going on in here!” As he was leaving, an employee runs up with a wad of cash — his winnings.
Now, suddenly, we are all “shocked, SHOCKED” that we are actually drilling for oil in the Gulf; yet the citizens of Louisiana have made decades of ongoing concessions to big oil and “the bad guys”; and as we shut down the fishing, tourism and wetlands, here are their winnings — but also their losses.
Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.