Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On crying over spilt oil...

I have every sympathy with those affected by the pollution caused by the sinking of the Horizon platform. However, it does come with a strong tinge of poetic justice.

There is no question that this is an event without precedent, if you limit the measure to oil spills in the Americas.

It is not without global precedent however. And it is from that the justice comes.

The Russian experience in Siberia - and no one can be sure that was ever "cleaned up" though the cause has been stopped - did have a flow on effect in making the extended use and extraction from the Northern Arctic Slope (Prudhoe Bay) much less attractive. But who cares about the Russkies messing up their own backyard? It is their problem, huh! Well it is if you adopt the selfish parochial attitude of some.

The worst to my knowledge is actually directly connected with the US, in that it occurred - is continuing - in Nigeria. Why should that be connected directly with the US? Simply because Nigeria is the biggest single supplier to the US, over 40% of US supply.

The pollution of southern Nigeria is the result of a combination of events; poor extraction controls; poor on-the-ground practices; the use of sub-standard materials; bad management; criminal damage... The excuses are almost endless.

What is undeniable is the fact that very large areas are effectively soaked in metres of free crude oil. There has been no effective attempt to clean it up. Stopping free flow from broken and intentionally damaged pipe networks has centred only on minimising losses rather than consequential damage.

The thing is, how much of an outcry was there from the single largest beneficiary? Nary a jot; not a whimper. And why?

Simply because it was out of sight. It was someone else's problem.