To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Sunday, February 5, 2023


Oil Spill Anger


Double, double, toil and trouble

Eye of newt and toe of frog

Wool of bat, and tongue of dog

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf

Witch’s mummy, maw and gulf

Double, double, toil and trouble

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth


And so goes the continuing saga of BP’s oil spill disaster in the Gulf.

Although it may well be America’s greatest environmental calamity on record, news of the British Petroleum oil well disaster has been wearing thin on most watchers and most readers of the news. Why is that?

It is not that we have no interest, and not that we have lost interest in this terrible tragedy. It is just that, as is usual in all such newsworthy events, we are saturated. We are bothered by all the hostility, anger, and criticisms of everybody by everybody. It has become a cacophony.

Lacking in fast-developing, definitive news about the tragedy, news media have been spending their time and ours finding talking heads to criticize and blame somebody. It seems that critics are always available, and there are plenty of targets for them. It is wearing on us.

That’s too bad, because we are just starting to realize fully the vast dimensions of the ecological effects.

Further, it is too bad because we have not yet reached the bottom in sifting out all the facts from the background of the catastrophe. Yet we are all busy casting blame around at everybody. We are doing this with abandon, with little establishment in logic or reason for some of our targets. We are just so terribly frustrated and angry, so just any target will do – the more the merrier.

It is not difficult to find some basis for being mad at several entities. First, there is British Petroleum, the owner of the well. Then there is the Transocean, which was actually drilling the Deepwater Horizon, and finally there is our old nemesis, Halliburton, which was handling the cementing and other services. There was confusion on the rig as to who was in charge, and evidently there were some arguments among employees leading to wrong decisions imperiling safety.

There were long-time failures of the government regulating agency to develop adequate policy standards for drilling safely at such depths, as are demanded in other jurisdictions in the world. There was lax reporting and lax enforcement of standards, and a background of close, if not collusive, relationships between oil entities and their regulators. Hampered by blocking of nominees in the Senate, it has taken the Obama Administration too long to clear out this and other rats’ nests in regulating agencies.

After the time of the drilling accident, tragically killing eleven employees and causing the gross spillage, it is hard for this writer to find a solid basis to assess a great deal of fault with anyone. It seems like everyone is trying frantically to stop this thing. There is a lot of trial and error.

One could go backward and find fault with both Bush and Cheney coming from oil backgrounds, supported generously by oil interests. One could cite the holding of government energy policy talks in secret with the advisors all coming from the oil companies, most of them cronies of Mr. Cheney. One could cite the past administration and the Congress giving oil companies tax incentives to drill in the Gulf, even giving away royalty rights to the companies drilling there. One could point to the fact that the entire government has been heavily influenced, some say “owned,” by big oil and other corporate interests.

But again, from this vantage point it is difficult to justify much of the angry criticism which has been directed toward BP or the company chairman, who has been their spokesman on the air. Maybe he has unwittingly acted cavalier in language and attitude. Maybe the company has appeared indecisive or disorganized. But no one has ever been handed such a calamity before.

Our press and our people have pilloried that man from BP something awful. Further, we have vilified the company and criticized BP’s desperate efforts at stopping the oil source, stopping its spread, and starting to clean up. We don’t seem to understand that magnitude of this disaster is beyond the realistic possibilities of response capabilities for any company, even one as big and powerful and BP. Our hostility is being reflected back by the pensioners and other stockholders in Britain who depend on dividend checks.

If our fishing business or livelihood had been taken away, maybe we would all be angry and feeling like yelling at somebody too. Evidently, some hold our government and our president personally responsible for any calamity that occurs, and they expect them to do something about it immediately, if not sooner. Political opponents always choose the president to blame.

What good would Mr. Obama have done by going to the beach, yelling and screaming at the oil scum? How many visits there would have been enough? Has he done more by declaring that he will “keep my boot on the neck of BP” until all this is cleaned up and made right financially? Are having a Coast Guard admiral on site, and specialists and other resources at his command, not better than Mr. Obama screaming and waving his hands on the beach?

BP is probably the only one with the expertise and the resources to do anything realistic to solve the problem of the spill. They are the ones with the financial incentives of liability to do all they can as fast as they can. They are the ones under the government’s boot to do it quickly.

What can we really accomplish by being angry and blaming everybody? It seems that all is being done that we know how to do and are able to do. This constant featuring of anger and fault-finding in the media accomplishes nothing but to undermine our confidence in both government and private enterprise. Enough already!

Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.