On the 20 April the Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and rupturing a high-pressure extraction pipe in two places. The full extent of the disaster is not yet fully clear.
As Solidarity goes to print oil continues to be pumped into the ocean. British Petroleum (BP) and US government agencies are placing the figure at 5,000 barrels a day. But many independent estimates put the figure higher, up to 100,000 barrels a day. Despite several high profile attempts by engineering teams, no one knows how or when this flow will be stopped, let alone when the slick will be cleared up.
Already this is being described amongst the worst single documented accidents in the industry’s history alongside the Exxon-Valdez tanker disaster of 1989 and Saddam Hussein’s torching of Kuwaiti wells in 1991.
The immediate ecological impact of an oil spill of this magnitude is nothing short of catastrophic. The oil and the chemicals used to disperse it from the surface are a threat to marine and animal life. Already there is talk of entire species being lost. Anyone who lives or works along the long stretch of the United States’ south coast struck by the spill will have had their life turned upside down as the water, beaches and marshlands are, so to speak, turned to shit.
BP is one of the most powerful multinational companies in the world, with a command, both directly and through subsidiaries, over resources and political sway greater than most national governments or states. It is truly a giant of the modern “imperialism of globalisation”. These people are used to getting their way and not facing any consequences for the human and environmental devastation wrought by their operations.
However, even this giant has been rocked by this disaster. The financial costs incurred by the ongoing cleanup operation have precipitated a drop in its stock value from more than $120 billion to less than 80. The extent of the political fallout and bad press BP has faced over this is demonstrated by the fact that the company has felt it necessary to launch a massive PR offensive — something they have never felt they had to in relation to countless disasters and killings in Nigeria, Colombia or anywhere else.
This time they have splashed millions in order to buy up internet space so that searches of phrases such as “deepwater horizon” and “oil spill” lead to their specially set up public information website. This level of “openness” has meant that the world has been kept up to date with the latest attempted fixes and even allowed online followers of the story to send in technical suggestions!
There has been a campaign launched in America calling for the seizure of BP’s assets. This is a demand we can support.
We need to fight for democratic working-class control over these industries and organise international workers’ solidarity to begin to challenge the power of the bastards like BP.