Since the April 20th explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf, many have anticipated the compounding effects that hurricane season would bring to the continuing BP oil spill. On Wednesday Alex, the first hurricane of the season, struck the Gulf. Though immediate attention must be given to combating the destruction in the Gulf, we should not overlook the BP spill as a catalyst for transitioning away from fossil fuels and a brutal indication to stop offshore drilling entirely.
Hurricane Alex has been pushing more oil onto shores that had been previously cleaned and forcing clean-up workers to dock skimmers and boats that otherwise would be helping with clean-up efforts. According to Associated Press, shores in Alabama were streaked with oil and dozens of vessels that had been helping transport workers and supplies were tied to docks. Yesterday morning, skimming efforts mostly stopped in the Gulf. Republican governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has taken this opportunity to contradict himself, by criticizing the Obama administration’s lack of urgency in responding to the spill while maintaining opposition to the six-month offshore drilling moratorium.
A BP executive told Reuters that “[Hurricane Alex] is not expected to hurt oil capture systems at the BP oil spill or the company’s plans to drill a pair of relief wells intended to plug the leak by August.” However, Kent Wells, BP’s executive vice president has said that the large waves caused by Alex “would delay this week’s plans to hook up a third system to capture much more oil.”
For some Louisiana residents working temporarily to clean up the oil spill, Hurricane Alex could actually more mean more work in the long run. Jerome Benjamin of New Orleans told NPR, “The more oil comes in, the longer we stay out here, the more work.” For now at least, most relief workers have not had much to do with strong winds coming in and waves disabling skimming efforts.
It is predicted that Hurricane Alex will bring heavy rain and potentially floods to Louisiana and Texas. By Thursday, winds should diminish but rain will likely continue in Texas and Mexico.
Meanwhile, Jindal has spoken out ruthlessly against Obama’s recent decision regarding offshore drilling: “Nobody in Louisiana wants to see another explosion, another loss of life…But at the same time, we don’t want to devastate the same coastal communities that are struggling with this oil spill with this arbitrary six-month moratorium.” It is true that Louisiana’s coastal communities depend on jobs in the oil industry. However, considering BP’s previous offenses in Texas and Alaska and the recent Massey Energy explosion in the West Virginia Upper Big Branch mine, it is starting to look like no measure exists to prevent catastrophes when dealing with fossil fuel extraction, be it oil or coal. Would Jindal trust BP to operate safely in the Gulf Coast after this disaster? Would he rescind this “arbitrary” moratorium if he had the power?
In the wake of the BP disaster, public attention has turned to corporate accountability, to the cozy relationship between big business and government, between BP and the Minerals Management Service. And rightly so. We have focused on the Murkowski amendment, oil dispersants, BP’s containment efforts, and now the $20 bill escrow fund. However, in our rush to clean up and rethink the unchecked power of corporations, we must not lose sight of what the spill ultimately means for our energy future. A six-month moratorium, while “arbitrary” according to Jindal, is more of a provisional acknowledgement by the Obama administration of the dangers of offshore drilling. A deliberate, sustained transition to renewable energy is needed, and now is a better time than ever to stop offshore drilling permanently.