The Gulf’s Exploding Platform Underscores Week of Menace and Surprise
Just a day after oil companies sponsored the first of seven rallies to protest the Obama administration’s moratorium on new offshore exploration, another oil platform exploded off the Louisiana coast. Initial news reports said one person was injured and 13 people were rescued from Mariner Energy’s Vermillion 380 platform, which operates in 340 feet of water 80 miles offshore, according to Coast Guard and company reports.
Before the August recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid assured the nation that when it returned this month the Senate would take up an oil disaster response bill, presumably to reduce the risks of offshore oil and gas production. The oil industry rallies this week, including one today in Mokena, Illinois that featured former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka, were in opposition to any new federal regulation, which workers asserted are an unneeded government interference in their livelihoods.
Fair enough. Good jobs that pay well are hard to find. It’s difficult, though, to fathom how stricter federal oversight would cost energy industry jobs in a nation so devoted to oil that it 1) provides the industry through policy and subsidies access to almost any reserve it wants, 2) consumes nearly 7 billion barrels a year, and 3) encourages through ideology and campaign donations virtually half of the Senate to completely discount the scientific evidence of the role fossil fuels play in accelerating climate change.
Their Own Safety
You’d think that oil industry workers at least might welcome a little federal help in assuring their own safety.
The Vermillion 380 platform, which manages five separate wells, is capable of producing 28 million cubic feet of gas a day, or more than 10 billion cubic feet a year. Last year, it produced 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Producing oil and gas on the platform is risky. According to the most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mariner’s Vermillion 380 platform was damaged two years ago by Hurricane Ike. The company suspended drilling operations “while underwater structural repairs were made.” The New York Times reported that a fire that resulted in an injury was reported on the rig in 2002. A pipeline leak was reported in 2000, when the platform was operated by a different company.
Such menace and surprise, in fact, was the theme of the week at the intersection of energy and climate issues. A madman, whose deranged online postings ranted against climate change and environmental degradation, was killed by police after taking several workers hostage at the Discovery Channel in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. That prompted a lather from the right wing blogosphere about environmental terrorism that was typically debased and understandably short-lived.
Powerful oil companies, climate changing denying senators, and reactionary ideology have made the battle over climate and energy the toughest frontline in Congress. But at least this week, as climate and environmental advocates prepared for the start of the new legislative season, there was a bit of fun.
Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish academic, switched sides on climate change, arguing in a new book that a $150 billion a year global carbon tax would be a smart solution. Lomborg gained global attention in 2001 for his book The Skeptical Environmentalist and said in 2002 that “in 20 years’ time, we’ll look back and wonder why we worried so much.”
Keith Schneider, a journalist and multi-media producer, is senior writer at the US Climate Action Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org