On April 20, the worst environmental catastrophe in US history began with the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well 50 miles off the American Gulf Coast. Eleven oil workers were killed and 17 seriously injured in the sinking of the oil rig. The sea-floor oil gusher caused by the explosion flowed unabated for 87 days, until July 15, releasing some 206 million gallons of oil. The long-term ecological damage is incalculable, hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents lost jobs and income, and serious health problems persist among those subjected to the toxins released by the oil and chemical dispersants.
The spill was the direct product of negligence and cost-cutting by BP in a new international scramble for oil. The drive for cheap forms of energy has been an essential component of Obama’s strategy of trade war and the “in-sourcing” of manufacturing. The long chain of events leading to the explosion implicated the US government “oversight” agencies.
In the days following the blast, the media followed the government's lead in seeking to downplay the potential ratifications of the disaster. As a result, the deaths of the oil workers were largely ignored. The WSWS was among the only outlets to cover their funerals, sending a reporter to Natchez, Mississippi for the funeral of Karl Kleppinger, one of the workers killed on the rig, and to interview his family.
WSWS reporters travelled to the gulf of Mexico and published a series of videos on the spill, including interviews with New Orleans area workers and health professionals. We exposed the cover-up by the Obama administration, which lied about the damage to the environment, the health effects for Coast residents, and the toxicity (and even the chemical content) of the nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant thrown into the Gulf.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard acted as a private security force for BP, blocking reporters from surveying beaches or even flying over the spill. Environmental scientists who predicted massive destruction to the Gulf’s environment faced a wall of lies from the media and political establishment.
In a perspective titled “Gulf oil spill: Why is BP in charge?,” the WSWS pointed to the criminal decision by the Obama administration to leave BP in control of the response and cleanup.
In June, Obama and BP approved placing multi-millionaire lawyer Kenneth Feinberg in charge of the payment of damage claims, in order to protect the financial interests of BP.
In the statement “Beyond BP,” the WSWS responded to attempts to portray the company and its executives as aberrations, even as everything was done to maintain BP’s profitability:
“The vast dimensions of the ecological and economic nightmare stand in sharp and revealing contrast to the miserable actions of the federal government. The main aim of the Obama administration has been to evade the underlying causes of the disaster and prevent public outrage from intersecting with growing anti-corporate sentiment throughout the country...
“BP is not an aberration. Until the next disaster, the company is only the most public face of corporate criminality that has become pervasive. In particular, BP shares with all the major oil companies a relentless drive for profit at the expense of the most elementary safety precautions and considerations.”